The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has on Thursday, reiterated that the national carrier, “Nigeria Air”, project is not experiencing investors apathy as shown earlier.
This is just as he said that no foreign company was paid $600,000 for the design of the logo of the Nigeria Air as speculated.
Sirika who said these in Abuja while clearing the air on the suspension of the project at the 5th Aviation Stakeholders’ Forum, noted that the Ministry is implementing the project in a very open and transparent manner in conjunction with relevant stakeholders.
Recall that the project which had been schedule to take-off in December 2018, was suspended by the Federal Executive Council on September 19, 2018 without giving any concrete reasons for the action.
Meanwhile, the Minister insisted that Nigeria deserves a national carrier for its many benefits,adding that the project was adequately planned for and structures put in place for its take-off, contrary to insinuations
According to him, “The following preparatory ground works were undertaken: Diagnostic study of the sector; Stakeholders’ engagement; Secondment of ICRC staff to the Ministry; The Nigeria Air Limited was incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission; A domain name was reserved for the Airline (www.flynigeriaair.ng); An Airport Office was secured while arrangements for a town office accommodation was on-going”.
On the cost profile for the project, he explained that the estimated funding requirement for the establishment of the project is USD300million up to 2020. “Initial start–up capital of USD55million made up of $25 million for deposit for new aircraft and $30 million for working capital from June to December 2018.
“Estimated working capital for 2019 is USD 100 million. Estimated working capital for 2020 of USD 145 million to be provided by the Strategic Equity Partners who are expected to manage the project”.
Sirika who noted that the apprehension that the National Carrier will go the way of the Nigeria Airways has been addressed by the conditions stipulated on the Compliance Certificate issued by ICRC, added that while infrastructure are necessary for the emergence of a hub, the establishment of a national carrier will give impetus to the development of a hub in Nigeria and all hubs must have National or strong carriers.
Speaking on the impact the national carrier will have on exisiting domestic carriers, he said “Contrary to the fear that the national Carrier will suffocate existing domestic carriers, it will rather benefit them and the industry at large. It will assist in stimulating overall air passenger travel demand, develop new routes, enhance infrastructure and promote manpower development.
“The suggestion that Aero and Arik Airlines which are under the control of AMCON should be merged to form a National Carrier is not tenable as the National Carrier would get entangled with huge indebtedness of the airlines, litigations and other encumbrances”.
Furthermore, he said that the justification and desirability of the national carrier is to fill the vacuum left by Nigeria Airways, give impetus to the emergence of Nigeria as hub for the West and Central Africa, promote reliable air transport services, reduce capital flight and create employment, amongst other reasons.
On the way forward, he announced that the Ministry will continue with the procurement phase in line with ICRC guidelines, obtain FEC approval on the FBC and Proceed to Financial closure.
He stressed that apart from commitments in respect of transaction advisory services, branding and participation at Farnborough Air show, no other expenditure has been incurred on the Nigeria Air Project.