By Chinelo Obogo
The Federal Government has said that the establishment of a national carrier must go on and assured that there would be no government interference in its day-to-day activities.
Responding to questions from CNN anchor, Richard Ques at the ongoing World Government Summit (WDS) in Dubai on Tuesday, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika,
said there would be no government control or membership of the government on the board of the carrier and it would be totally private.
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“Nigeria is situated at the centre of Africa, equidistant from all locations in Africa. If Central and Eastern Africa is the belt of the continent, then Nigeria is the buckle. There are 200 million people and a rising middle class, so the propensity to fly is high. Nigeria is a candidate for national carrier,” he said.
Quest interjected asking if the airline is going to be private and Sirika answered; “Private. Yes. 5 per cent government and no government stepping right in that company. There would be no government control, no membership of government on board. Totally private and committed. We are committed to a roadmap to establish a National Carrier, to concession the airports, to set-up a leasing company, to establish cargo facilities and we have been doing that.”
Quest also asked if government would be able to keep hands off it and the minister reiterated that there would be no government interference.
“Whatever we say we will do as a government since 2015, it has happened. that is why Tim Clark’s Emirate, Qatar Airways and all of them are looking to go into Nigeria in multiple frequencies and multiple landing points because Nigeria is the right place for airline business.
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Quest asked Tim Clark if he would get involved in Nigeria establishing a carrier, Clark responded: “ Is there a business case for the carrier? Of course there is. Nigerians are seeking to travel all over the world. Nigeria is a power house of Africa. We are over interested in flying there because it is a rich nation in terms of demand for services. It is a very rich and if the minister needs some assistance in how they go about practising a blueprint, we are very happy to help.”
On Nigeria’s response to the pandemic, Sirika said: “We have 200 million people in Nigeria and most of them living close to each other. Something needed to be done unless people would die. We closed the country immediately at that time and that is why in Nigeria, up till today only 3,500 deaths were recorded from Covid19, and just about 250, 000 infected and 245,000 discharged from the hospital.
“I believe the statiatics otherwise people would have been going to the grave unexplained. It worked very well, then, gradually things began to ease out and business began. Don’t forget before Covid-19, Nigerian aviation became the fastest growing sector of the economy.”