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‘It Will Fly’: Nigeria’s Aviation Minister Insists Nigeria Air Will Be Operational Before May 29

“We have everything in place, the aircrafts are in place, the offices, operational centres, the staffing and everything that we need to have in place,” Hadi Sirika said.

Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika

With barely 31 days to the end of the eight-year administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has expressed optimism that the proposed national carrier; Nigeria Air, will commence operation before May 29, 2023 terminal date of the present administration. 

Recall that a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, had ordered the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) not to issue an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to Nigeria Air Limited, following a suit filed by a group of domestic airliners.

The domestic airline operators had under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) challenged the equity structure of the airline which cedes 49% stake to Ethiopian Airlines with federal government having only 5% while the remaining 46% is for Nigerian investors.

Answering reporters questions on the issue after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja on Wednesday, the Minister reiterated his earlier vow that the national carrier would commence operation before President Buhari’s tenure ends.

Speaking on the possibility of the national carrier, which was issued its Air Transport License (ATL) by the NCAA last year, still meeting the target of its take off before the end of the present administration, Sirika said everything needed for operations to commence had been put in place, assuring the planned take off will still happen.

His words: “Nigeria Air limited, I did say that we will get it going before the end of this administration and I’ve not withdrawn my words. We have everything in place, the aircrafts are in place, the offices, operational centers, the staffing and everything that we need to have in place. We’re doing the last minute checks and waiting for the issuance of the AOC and it will fly.

“It will fly, it will be for the benefit of this country, for the size of population, the traveling public and what it does to the economy, especially to tourism, to African integration and to the AU Agenda 2063. It’s a very important project and I must do, it will happen before the end of our tenure in the next four weeks and two days”.

Commenting on the recent strike embarked upon by aviation workers, Sirika said: “So the 

Nigerian aviation workers are striking principally for three reasons. Reason number one, they said the conditions of service for the agencies. Number two is minimum wage implementation and number three, they’re talking about the demolition of the headquarters or the office of FAAN in Lagos. 

“Condition of service is not in our hands, it’s in the Salaries and Income Wages. I personally as the Minister went there with the union three times to fast track that process. So that’s being looked at by the appropriate authority and I think they are fast tracking it. 

“On the implementation of the minimum wage, that also Accountant General’s Office, Ministry of Finance and the agency concerned are working hard to ensure that that happens. 

“Lastly on the demolition of the FAAN headquarters to erect offices, shopping malls and make it what you see when you travel abroad. That is also ongoing. If you ask me, make me an omelet, you can complain that I’m breaking your egg, that’s a quotation from one of the Managing Directors of FAAN, but that said, I think it’s been overhyped, taken out of context.

“Certainly, the FAAN building was there, even before Egbon Lai Mohammed joined the FAAN. So it was a transit camp, the FAAN office is transit camp for the people that built the airport, it’s made out of wood and some panels as a makeshift office and this is what FAAN has been using on a very prime property and it’s not befitting for the FAAN Lagos office, it’s only waste of space, and it caught fire twice, once during our administration.

“So we thought that that place should leave so that we can erect offices, shopping malls, cinemas, and the rest of it. Airports are no longer places where you take over land. You all go to Dubai, you all go to other places and see how they are, so certainly and definitely government would remove those wood structures, housing FAAN’s office now and erect among the aerotropolis components; offices, shopping malls, hotels, car parks and the rest of it, befitting of the nation, Nigeria and befitting of the city of Lagos. 

“Lastly, maybe I throw this one in, since as an interest, just to respond. Someone on Twitter said that he has checked and has found that one fire truck costs N800 million only. I told him, first and foremost, there’s Freedom of Information Act in place, you can apply and get the details of that procurement.

“But one, assuming it’s N800 million or even N500 million, you’ll add 1% Stamp Duty, you’ll add 5% Withholding Tax, you’ll add 7.5% VAT, you’ll the contractor’s margin, you’ll add shipment cost, you’ll add transportation costs, you’ll add Custom Clearance, you’ll training, you’ll add spares and you’ll add the margin of the contractor and come back with the figure”, he said.

Also on Wednesday, the federal Ministry of Works and Housing announced dates for the delivery of some of the key projects executed by the present administration, including the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, as well as two sections of the Abuja-Kano Expressway.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who briefed reporters on behalf of his Works and Housing counterpart, Babatunde Fasola, said while the Lagos-Ibadan Road will be delivered on April 30 this year, the Second Niger Bridge will be one of those to be delivered on May 15.

He also disclosed that FEC approved a N1.398 billion variation for the completion of the second phase of the Uto Bridge in Delta state. 

According to him: “The first memo he presented today was a memo seeking approval for revised estimated total cost of a contract for the completion of Phase 2 of Uto Bridge, 2.6 kilometer stretch in Ikenke, Delta State. This is an old project which we are committed to completing, I think the project was awarded in year 2006, but we are committed to completing it so today the FEC approved the sum of N1.398 billion to revise the contract from the N4.435 billion to N5.835 billion, inclusive of 7.5% VAT, to ensure that we’re able to complete this project before we leave. 

“Also the Minister of Works brought approval for the ongoing bypassing, I think along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, but the good thing about this project is that we can very confidently and proudly announce that the Kano-Zaria 137 kilometer and the Zaria-Kaduna, 73 kilometers, will be handed over to us on May 15. Ditto the Second Niger Bridge will be handed over to us on May 15, the Lagos-Ibadan 116 kilometers, with toll gates, will be handed over to us on April 30 

“The Loko-Oweto Bridge is also completed, so also is the Ikom Bridge completed. Our Federal Secretariats in Nasarawa, Awka, Bayelsa and Zamfara State are also completed and the Zuba housing project, 700 apartments, they’re also already for commissioning”, he said.

On his part,  Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Opiah, told newsmen that  FEC approved an estimated N32.4 billion for the completion of the National Library of Nigeria headquarters building complex in Abuja.

According to him, “Federal Ministry of Education presented a memo for approval for the revised estimated total cost of contract for the completion of the construction of National Library of Nigeria headquarters building complex in Abuja, the revised estimated cost is N32.4bn.

 “The scope of work for the project includes the construction of a concrete structure consisting of 11 floors, two basement floors and eight upper floors for housing bookstore, locker rooms, bindery, printing press, restaurants, clinic, creches changing rooms exhibition hall, auditorium, cataloguing, general reference areas, legal deposits, office for the administration book stacks, reading areas, electronic data processing center, library research and training center public convenience and underground car pack furnishing as well as perimeter fencing, gates and gatehouses, internal roads, electrical and mechanical services and other external works”, he said.

Deji Elumoye in Abuja 

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