Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika has expressed fears that airlines in the country have refused to grow due to their own attitude, revealing that some airlines are currently owing government agencies to the tune of N513bn.
Sirika who lamented to journalists at the domestic wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, the level of ineffectiveness of the airline operators in terms of capacity and business model, in line with the decision of the government on the new National carrier, counseled the airlines to get their acts together and see the bigger picture, embrace the moving train – the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM).
“The airlines have refused to grow and the challenges are not caused by government. It is their making. If I will advise them, let them get their acts together to focus, re-organise, re-engineer, take advantage and be futuristic. They should see the bigger future; the bigger pie and organise themselves to take advantage of SAATM; rather than to sit here and whine at a train that is already moving.
“There is an airline that owes one of the agencies N13 billion. One airline owes several agencies and companies up to N500 billion; just one airline. That airline has been taken over. Is that how they will compete? The Minister rhetorically asked.
“I think it is getting their priorities right and by doing the business model that will get money for them that they will operate well. There is a lot they can do in aviation than just passenger scheduled services when they don’t have the capacity, experience and the business model,” Sirika also said.
Sirika further enlightened that there is an audit ongoing by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on airlines in the country as there were concerns that some of them might be found short of passing the stiff regulatory test, hinting that the outcome of the audit will shock Nigerians.
According to the minister, the audit on airline operators became necessary with a view to knowing their financial strength and to quickly raise the red flag to their operations wherever they were found wanting.
Sirika also disclosed that plans for a new national carrier are already at an advanced stage and its set up would drive the open sky treaty recently signed with 22 African countries.
“I will say that we are very close to having the national carrier established. Certainly, it will be within the first term of this administration, Nigeria with 173 million people, the two-third of West Africa, will be one of the biggest beneficiaries. At the time Nigeria was pushing for this treaty, we had the Nigerian Airways to take advantage of it. Now we don’t have it and our airlines are, for one reason or the other, have not grown to that capacity and this is why government felt that we should set in motion a national carrier programme that will take advantage of the liberalisation and agreements for the benefit of the Nigerian people”.
“I believe we are on the right course. I believe that this private sector led and driven airline when established will become the dominant carrier in Africa because the market is in Nigeria and it is central. So, Nigeria is at very vantage position to take advantage of this SAATM”.
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