The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has said the establishment of the National Carrier, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities and implementation of other components of the Aviation Roadmap remain top priorities of the federal government.
Mr Sirika said this at a meeting in his office with members of the Joint Aviation Unions Forum, an umbrella body of all unions in the aviation sector, in Abuja.
According to a statement by the Director Press and Public Affairs of the ministry, James Odaudu, the minister said the establishment of the national carrier will further position Nigeria ”to compete with other nations in line with the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) project and develop as a regional hub for air transportation.”
According to him, the establishment of MROs will save the country a lot of foreign exchange ”that would otherwise be spent by airline operators sending their aircraft abroad for checks.”
He promised to work with the unions in implementing the roadmap which he said would go a long way to advance the sector.
“I promise that there will be a good understanding between us to drive the activities of our industry towards contributing more to national development. I will do everything reasonably possible to make the newly reestablished ministry live up to the expectations of all stakeholders in the sector.
“This task, I think, is for you as well; not for me alone. It is for all of us. We will continue to hold stakeholders’ meetings with the unions, staff, the management and players within the industry. We will be committed to better welfare while expecting your full cooperation towards the implementation of The Aviation Roadmap which was developed during our first tenure,” he reportedly said.
He also promised that the ministry will continue to lay emphasis on the safety and security of air travellers.
He said the recent acquisition of a calibration aircraft for the country and the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu for rehabilitation were some of the steps being taken to guarantee the safety of the nation’s airspace.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Forum and National President of Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN), Ilitrus Ahmadu, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for ensuring continuity in the aviation sector and ”by not only reappointing Hadi Sirika, but restoring the full-fledged status of the ministry”.
He asked the minister to pick up full throttle from where he stopped, especially in the implementation of the Aviation Roadmap, one of which major aspects is the establishment of a national carrier.
According to him, the establishment of the airline will not only guarantee more employment for pilots, cabin crew, engineers and other aviation professionals, ”but also enhance the nation’s international image, being a major player in the aviation world”.
The nation’s former carrier, Nigeria Airways, was founded in 1958 after the parent firm, West African Airways Corporation (WAAC), was dissolved.
It was named WAAC Nigeria until 1971 when it was renamed. It ceased operations in 2003.
Nigeria owned a majority of the airline (51 per cent) until 1961 when it increased its stake in the company to 100 per cent. It then made the airline officially its carrier.
Moves to resuscitate it several years after its demise have not been successful.