Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, yesterday said plans for a new national carrier is already at an advanced stage and its set up will drive the open sky treaty recently signed with 22 African countries.
Sirika, in Lagos Thursday, told reporters that a proper roll out and its establishment will take place within the next few months. This is just as the minister called on domestic carriers to strategize ahead of the looming competition.
He said a certain airline is owing aviation agencies over N13 billion. Another airline he said is owing several agencies over N500 billion.
Sirika disclosed that in the next one or two months, both the outline business case for the transaction and the full business case for the national carrier will be rolled out, after which processes for the carrier’s set up will begin.
“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,” he said.
The minister added that the national carrier is crucial to full implementation of bilateral agreements, especially the new Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), otherwise called open sky treaty.
Sirika noted that the treaty which Nigeria signed with 22 African countries, is aimed at growth, development, more jobs, more security, more connectivity and passenger satisfaction at airports.
He said: “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 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 that will take advantage of all these airspace liberalisation and agreements for the benefit of the Nigerian people.”
He said while the open sky treaty is already being implemented, it will take between one and two years to be fully operational.
It will be recalled that the local carriers, that are supposed to reciprocate, have kicked against the treaty, saying the business environment is not healthy for local carriers to compete with their African counterparts.
The minister, however, urged local carriers to strategize for the new dispensation.
According to him, “The airlines have refused to grow and the challenges are not caused by government. It is their own making. If I will advise them, let them get their hearts together to focus, reorganise, reengineer, 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 is owing one of the agencies N13 billion. One airline was owing several agencies and companies up to N500 billion. Just one airline. That airline has been taken over. Is that how they will compete? I think it is getting their priorities and business model right. 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.”
Meanwhile, the minister apologized to on-board passengers and members of the public over the Dana Air plane emergency door fall-off incident, saying investigation was ongoing and would be made public by weekend.