National carrier take-off now 2022 ― Sirika

The take-off of the proposed new national carrier has been moved to sometime in 2022.

It had been scheduled to begin operation this year.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who disclosed this, told correspondents after Wednesday’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that his ministry would present a fine-tuned proposal for the project to the Council in two weeks.

According to him, efforts are still on to get the carrier up and running even though the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the original plans.

He stressed the importance of the project to the Nigerian economy and beyond, saying that given the size of the population, the vantage geographical location and other natural factors, the national carrier is an economic necessity for the country.

Sirika explained: “In this 2021, we will try to do all the needful and probably we intend to start operations somewhere around first quarter 2022. It is still in top gear, we are coming back to Council, hopefully within the next two weeks, to present the memo on the national carrier.

“We went to Council to approve the outline business case for the carrier and then the Council raised some questions and asked us to go and file the memo again and bring it back.

“So, once it comes back and the outline business case is approved by Council, then, of course, we will now go to the full business case, which is now going to the market and then establishing the national carrier.

“It was our intention to have a national carrier running in 2021, which is this year. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, which took the greater part of last year, since March last year, activities are almost impossible.

“This in itself, though negatively affected civil aviation in terms of the establishment of the national carrier, it makes it much better time to establish the carrier than before.

“Of course, for obvious reasons, we now have access to equipment, that they will come faster to us. Deliveries of the aircraft will be faster, perhaps even the rates might be cheaper and so on, and so forth.

“So, we will go to Council on that and then, we will further brief you. But it’s on top gear and we need it more than yesterday.

“The COVID-19 has exposed the nation, that the lack of having a very strong, viable airline is bad for the economy of Nigeria, and for any country for that matter. This ministry, Tourism, for example, are badly affected by the lack of its presence.

“Finally, it’s to just say that Nigeria is the best candidate to have an airline; 200 million mobile people that travel, sometimes almost for nothing; sitting within the West African subregion; 400 million people; contiguous with Central Africa, 600 million people, twice the population of the US, equal to the population of entire continental Europe; at the centre of Africa, Nigeria; equal distance from all locations; rising middle class, proficiency to fly is high. Nigeria is the best candidate for a very robust carrier.”

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