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Sirika cautions National Assembly against cutting aviation’s vote in 2021 budget

FG to downgrade Enugu international airport

The Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika on Monday enjoined the National Assembly not to slash the budgetary allocation for the ministry.

Sirika made the appeal when he appeared before the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning at the current stakeholders’ interactive session on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.

The committee had included agencies in the aviation industry among revenue-generating agencies that should no longer be allocated funds in the national budget because they were self-sustainable.

Sirika told the legislators that income from the aviation sector would continue to see steep decline from now till the first quarter of 2022 owing to lower passenger traffic triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

He observed that even though the sector was the fastest-growing sector of the economy, its growth had been arrested by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On the questions regarding the challenging times and whether the overhead of the agencies will be mopped up to fund the national budget, I don’t think so.

“Take for example the COVID-19, we are the greatest hit sector. At the time when we came and in order to implement our agenda, which is called aviation road map, when we began to implement it, we slowly became the second fastest growing sector.

“Within the three years of implementation of that roadmap, we became in 2018, the second fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy and just before COVID-19, we became the fastest growing sector in the Nigerian economy.

Read also: Only airlines from countries that allow Nigerian flights would be allowed into Nigeria —Sirika

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 came and we shut down. I think until quarter four of 2021 and perhaps quarter one of 2022, we will continue to see sharp decline in passengers and that is directly proportional to the revenue that we collect,” Mr Sirika said.

The minister affirmed that people’s morale must be boosted, adding that factors that were capable of boosting the tendency to fly were being eroded during the period.

“So, we are in difficult and challenging times and we do not have solutions even as advanced countries are spending huge amounts of money to support civil aviation businesses.

“The government, because of the challenge of funding, has not been able to respond to civil aviation requests and civil aviation funding like other countries have done.

“If government is not able to fund us because of the challenge of income, then government should not take the little that we have,” he said.

Sirika stressed that every single agency in civil aviation was so important that they needed to be funded. He went further to say the ministry introduced the concession of the airports because it understood the nature of the aviation business well.

“We have now done the outline business case; we are now going ahead for the procurement to concession these airports.

“The reason is simple and that is because this government, the APC administration, is social democratic in nature; it does not want to sell national assets. It wants to keep the assets with the people but we can concession them and improve them to make them better.”

According to him, concession would improve the revenue of the country.

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