By Omotilewa Quadri
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has said that contrary to a position taken by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; the moribund national carrier project, (Nigeria Air), was not suspended because of lack of investors.
Addressing journalists on Monday at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, Lai Mohammed had said that investors who were supposed to partner with the government on the project were no longer forthcoming.
“If the understanding of government at the beginning was that the project might be self-financing or the project would be financed by investors and you think that such a project can no longer be sponsored by investors, either because they are not forthcoming or such venture can no longer be viable, the government is at the discretion to take a decision,” he said during the official opening of an in-flight catering facility, the LSG Sky Chefs.
“The position of government in business is to provide the enabling environment and it is not to become the sole source of finance or funding and in addition, there is much more than funding in trying to get our national carrier. So, the Federal Government thinks this thing should be stepped down now until we get a better funding structure.”
But a statement released on Tuesday by the Deputy Director, Media and Public Affairs of the Federal Ministry of Transportation James Odaudu, disagreed with the Information Minister.
Oduadu quoted Sirika as saying that the national carrier project ”had an avalanche of well-grounded and ready investors”.
The investors, according to Sirika, include international financial institutions such as the Afro-Exim Bank, African Development Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, aircraft manufacturers – Airbus and Boeing.
“They also include airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Air etc. and some reputable individuals and entrepreneurs.
“The office of the minister of state for aviation has noted, with consternation, various opinions, comments and observations in the media regarding the status and the reasons for the recent suspension of the processes leading to the establishment of a Nigerian national carrier.
“Among the reasons being given for its suspension, especially in the social media is the absence of interested and ready investors.
“This couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the national carrier project has an avalanche of well-grounded and ready investors,” he said.
The minister also stated that the country’s participation at the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom in July was not for the sole purpose of unveiling the Nigeria Air logo contrary to public belief.
He explained that the air show was also a meeting point with those potential investors who saw the event as another opportunity to market and re-emphasise their interests in the project.
“It is also pertinent to clarify that the federal executive council only suspended the process for the establishment of the national carrier for the time being.
“The project has not been killed,” he said.
Sirika had on September 19 announced the decision of FEC to suspend the project for ‘strategic reasons’ without giving further details.
The decision has elicited reactions from many stakeholders and other Nigerian who have suggested different reasons for the suspension of the project.
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