ABUJA—The federal government has appointed a transaction adviser for the new national carrier billed to take off in the next 12 months. The government also approved additional N1.57 billion for rehabilitation of local and international wings of Port Harcourt International Airport, even as it made trapped $300 million available to foreign airlines, some of which had suspended operations to the country. Briefing journalists at the end of yesterday’s federal Executive Council, FEC, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the new carrier would come on stream in 2017 to give air travellers a choice of airlines to fly. He said the new carrier would be run by the private sector, with government contributing only five percent.
The minister said government had set up the machinery to realise the national carrier project by appointing an adviser who would facilitate the process. On the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt International Airport, Sirika said FEC approved a review of the cost of rehabilitating the international wing of the airport from N777,726,669.30 to N1,684,520,310.58 for the original contractor Messes Entaba. The second project, he said, was the refurbishment of the airport terminal building phase II domestic wing which was jerked up from N746,830,782.12 to N1,411,662,855.67. He also said that FEC approved bilateral agreement against double taxation with Kenyan government. He said: “FEC approved the rectification of climate change Paris agreement. It also approved bilateral agreement against double taxation with Kenya and while Nigeria is not exporter. This is very important for the Nigerian economy and businesses. “Also, FEC approved the revised total estimate cost of finishing Port Harcourt airport both domestic and international wing. So, FEC approved the project as it is captured in the 2016 and 2017 budget. ‘’So, very soon, we will complete that very important airport, especially the arrival wing. ‘’Port Harcourt airport has been tagged the worst airport in the world but by the grace of God and the wisdom of council, it will be completed.’’
Giving details on why many foreign airlines were flying the best of aircraft on Nigeria airspace, Sirika said it was not as a result of not having corresponding facilities for such services, assuring that the government was working to put the necessary infrastructures in place. The minister also gave hopes on the stability of aviation with a provision of over $300 million to pay foreign airlines. He said further: “As regards carriers like Egypt Air, British Airways, Turkish Air who fly in here with undesirable aircraft while they put on other routes better aircraft, despite the fact that the Nigerian routes pay them more, we have been talking to them seriously and ensuring that they change their fleet. ‘’However, some of them are constrained by some of the infrastructure we have in place, for example Emirate. “Emirate will love to bring the kind of aircraft they fly around the world but the apron in Abuja is not supporting that service. That is why the aircraft they take to Lagos is different from the one they take to Abuja. That inadequacies is also being addressed and once that is done, we will have benefiting aircraft coming. This has always been a challenge.
“On the foreign carriers that are threatening to leave Nigeria, I think it is a response to how the industry is doing globally, especially Nigeria with recession. Due to their inability to get the airlines to repatriate their currency that they earn through sales of tickets, they find it very difficult to operate and do business. “I did say that these are commercial decisions that the airlines will take but with the way the routes are and with what we have been doing to correct these things, many more of the airlines would have pulled out by now. “But now as we speak, government, through the CBN, has made available $300 million out of the $600 million of the airlines funds stock in Nigeria to pay the airlines to demonstrate its commitment to the sector.’