FG to inject competition into aviation sector, says minister


Minister of State, Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, says the Federal Government is determined to inject competition into the aviation sector through the establishment of a viable national carrier.
Sirika said this when leaders of the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN) led by its President, Mr Benjamin Okewu visited him on Thursday in Abuja.
He said that having smaller entities with few numbers of aircraft would help the industry to be competitive, adding that the government would come up with policies that would address the challenges.
The minister expressed concern that there were many routes opened to the country that it could not take advantage of because of non-existence of a viable national carrier that could operate those routes.
He explained that the new national carrier to be established would be private sector driven, adding that the coming of the airline was not intended to kill the smaller carriers in the country.
According to him, imagine British Airways coming to Nigeria 21 times in a week, three times in a day, so also Emirate and others that are coming twice daily.
“Nigeria has no response and then what happens? The prices of tickets go up; Nigerians would not have jobs because there are pilots and engineers but cannot use their licenses.
“It kills the morale of anybody because he cannot use his skill and his knowledge is wasted, but what we have trying to do is to inject completion within the system by having a national carrier.
“Nigeria will continue to pay higher because for now we don’t have option but if we create option, certainly prices will come down and there will be more jobs for Nigerian people,’’ he said.
Sirika expressed his readiness to use his wealth of experience in the sector to ensure the establishment of a befitting national carrier that would serve the Nigerian people efficiently.
He promised that the government would leverage on the experience from the glory of the defunct Nigerian Airways and the Ethiopian Airlines to set up a standard and efficient carrier.
The minister also pledged to take drastic action to resolve the crisis generated by the takeover of management of Aero Contractors by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
According to him, I am not going to fold my alms and allow Aero Contractor to die, saying the sustenance of aviation industry for greater efficiency and job creation is his priority.
Sirika assured the union that all the issues they raised concerning the survival of the nation’s aviation industry would be examined carefully and addressed.
He said that the concession of four international airports was to ensure that the airports meet standard, assuring that the policy would not lead to job loss.
“Certainly, government does not have the money to build beautiful airports to meet international standards now but what is more important is to get those places to work efficiently.
“I believe that our people will get better jobs instead of losing them because government would not just do anything without considering the human face,’’ Sirika said.
Earlier, ATSSAN President, Okewu, urged the minister to look into all the concerns raised by the union, which include irregular appointments in some aviation parastatals and the planned concession of airports.
Okewu also urged the minister to urgently address the crisis in the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) by appointing a competent management team for the agency.
He also called on the minister to come to the rescue of Aero Contractors by cautioning AMCON on the proper way of managing an airline business.
According to him, the airline has the capacity to serve as one of the best airlines in Africa, if properly managed.


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