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FG to name new national carrier in 2017 —Aviation minister

•As FEC approves N3bn for P/Harcourt airport projects

THE Federal Government has disclosed that a national carrier for the country will soon come on stream, as necessary arrangements are being put in place for its take-off.

Government said it would, in the next one week, appoint a transaction adviser that would help facilitate the establishment of a new national airline within the next 12 months.

Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, made this known while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He also disclosed that the council had approved about N3 billion for completion of ongoing projects at the Port Harcourt International Airport.

According to him, FEC approved the revised total estimate cost of finishing Port Harcourt Airport, both domestic and international wings, saying the projects were captured in the 2016 and 2017 budgets.

Giving the breakdown, the minister said the cost of the rehabilitation of the international wing of the Port Harcourt Airport, as approved by the council, was N1,684,520,310.58, adding that the project would be handled by the original contractor, Messrs Entaba.

The second project, Sirika disclosed, was the refurbishment of the Port Harcour terminal building phase II domestic wing, which cost was raised from N746,830,782.12 to N1,411,662,855.67.

He noted that the airport had been tagged as one of the worst in the world, adding, however, that soon, the projects would be completed to give it a necessary facelift.

The minister disclosed that before next Wednesday, the Federal Government would appoint transaction adviser for the proposed national carrier.

He noted once that was in place, Nigerians would have options, while the price of airfare would definitely come down.

Sirika said unlike in the past where the Federal Government wholly owned the Nigeria Airways, the new national carrier in the offing would be run by the private sector, with government owning only a paltry five per cent stake.

The minister, who was excited about the development, disclosed that the government “is looking at kick-starting the national carrier in the next 12 months.”

Asked to name those in the private sector who are expected to participate in the establishment of the new national carrier, the minister said “it will be pre-emptive to start naming those interested.”

Speaking on the foreign carriers threatening to leave Nigeria because of the foreign exchange crisis, Senator Sirika said the situation was not peculiar to Nigeria.

He, however, admitted that some of the foreign airlines were finding it difficult to repatriate their funds earned from sales of tickets.

He revealed that government was currently addressing some of those challenges and various incentives were being put in place to cushion the effect of the forex crisis they faced.

On the use of suitable planes on the Nigerian routes, he said some of the airline operators were constrained by some of the infrastructure in place, adding that the issue was being addressed.