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Nigeria Senate Can’t Stop Demolition Work At Lagos Airport, FG Says

The government also insisted Air Nigeria will fly before May 29.

Nigeria’s Federal Government has insisted that the Senate has no right to stop the ongoing demolition of offices belonging to agencies doing aviation activities at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos

Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, made the government position known yesterday while speaking with newsmen at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.

Responding to a reporter’s question on the issue, Sirika emphasised that the Senate resolution is merely advisory and cannot stop the government from doing its work.

His words: “So, government is going to continue, of course. The Senate is advisory, it’s an executive function, we’re not barred by any court of law. So it’s an executive function and government cannot be stopped from giving development to its people”. 

The Minister’s remark was in reaction to a motion on Tuesday by the Senate directing the government to halt the demolition to allow the Senate Committee on Aviation, chaired by Senator Biodun Olujimi, intervene in the matter.

Olujimi had drawn the attention of the red chamber to the warning strike threatened by the Union of Air Transport Employees, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, and National Association of Aircrafts Pilots and Engineers.

Justifying the plsnned demolition of the makeshift FAAN structures, the Minister said government would go on with its plan to make use of the land by building something befitting Lagos and in the interest of the majority of Nigerians, the Senate’s directive notwithstanding.

According to him: “The intent of government is to remove the structure that is housing the offices of the Managing-Director of FAAN and those commercial departments. It was a structure that was made of woods, it’s been there for 40 years, it has caught fire twice, even during our ministration, and to give way for better development for what Lagos has become; it’s the gateway. 

“We want to put hotels there, shopping malls, offices, cinemas and the rest of it, so FAAN can make more money. The entire people within that structure are not more than 150 or 200 in that headquarters. 

“Just the other day, some houses were demolished by Lagos State on our behalf, we’ve been on that issue for some time, we went up to Supreme Court and won. They have to give way for developments. This is in national interest.

“If individuals will drag it out with government, there’s no government worker that can drag it out a government. If I want to pull down this hall and build a better one, who will come and stop me from doing that as a government? 

“So I think it’s not an issue, they’re just over-hitting it and you know why. But we have responsibility and mandate and we’re not shy, we’re very bold to do all those things that are good for our people and for government. 

“We’re also a very responsive and responsible government. Where it will affect the lives of people, of course, we wouldn’t be indulging in doing it. We’ve been known to be doing those things that better civilization. This one also is going to make live very good. 

“I’m sure those people that are saying no to it, they don’t want to continue to see Lagos Airport the way it is. So, one or two individuals will not deny Nigeria’s 250 million the joy of having something that we all go outside to see.

“These people, these leaders, don’t they travel? See Dubai, big deal, and now you want to give something like Dubai and somebody said no. Common”.

The Minister also reiterated government”s determination to see that Nigeria’s national carrier, Nigeria Air Limited, starts operation before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on May 29, 2023.

His words: “I think three weeks is a lot of time. Yeah. By the special grace of God, it will fly and don’t forget we didn’t start today. We started this in 2015. We drew up the road-map, we got the transaction advisors in 2016. From 2016 we’ve been planning and planning and planning. “Many airlines came, more than 50% of the airline today in Nigeria were licensed by us, by the Buhari’s administration. One of the airlines, United that went to court today, we gave him the license, Buhari government, and he’s never been to the office of the minister. He didn’t even know it. ValueJet, we gave him the license. 

“The first time I saw him was at the commissioning of Ogun Airport. Rano Air, Uza Air, all of them. Even Air Peace, which is the biggest airline, when we came in 2015, how many airlines did they have? The growth and robustness of Air Peace is because we gave them the enabling environment as a Buhari government to do it. 

“So, we didn’t stop anybody from doing it. We will do it by the grace of God and we will give Nigeria the airline that it deserves for market, for the population, for the centrality and for everything. We will do it Isha Allah”.

On if there is a sustainable plan for the next government to continue with the project, Sirika said “well, we are committed and luckily it is APC that will be in power again. We are committed to this project, this project is good for the Nigerian economy, for the traveling people.

“You will all agree with me that unfortunately from the time of Kabo, Okada, Harco, Chanchangi, Albarka, and the rest of them, about 60 of them went down the drain. We don’t want our airlines to be dying because people are putting their money in there. 

“It is our own responsibility to guide them to do it right and we invited each and every one of them to come and do it the way we think it should be done. But it’s individual choice and no one has stopped any airline in Nigeria; Max Air, United, all of them, they will go and bring in competencies, but if they want to run it the way they are, it’s their choice and their business, but we will get them to do it and give Nigerians what they deserve. 

“But if we say we are going to set up a private sector driven airline, with the richest skills of government in it, why not?  And they were all given the opportunity to come and invest in this airline and they didn’t. 

“So this airline will be set up and to answer your question. Yes, the airline will be established now and the incoming government has no choice but to run with it and the reason is 95% is not government-owned, 95% is owned by entrepreneurs. So the coming of the next government which, is APC, won’t just throw the investment away because there’s change government so it will continue”.

The Federal Government also on Wednesday approved National Blockchain Policy (NBP) in line with the global technological standards for the growth of the economy.

Blockchain technology is relevant to so many sectors in banking, security, education, commerce, among many others. 

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ibrahim Ali Pantami who announced the approval while speaking with newsmen after the FEC meeting said  “with the approval of the National Blockchain Policy for Nigeria today, we can safely say that blockchain technology with all its components and types have been institutionalized in the country. 

Pantami explained that regulatory bodies like the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Communications Commissions, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Universities Commission have been directed with the approval to come up with the regulatory instruments within their sector for the implementation of the national blockchain policy for the country.

He added that there are so many opportunities in blockchain technology saying research conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), predicted that by 2030, blockchain technology could be able to add 1.76 trillion USD to the global GDP. 

He, however, lamented that African countries were left out of the equation in first, second and third industrial revolution. According to him: “It is only in the fourth industrial revolution that we are not far away from the developed countries, it becomes necessary for us to be proactive. With this approval, we join a very few countries that have legalized and approved blockchain in their countries like United Kingdom, Denmark, Switzerland, in Estonia, Georgia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates. 

“These are the few countries there are not many. So now we have joined them and we are being proactive to ensure that with the policy, we will increase our talent development, also discover our young innovators, give them all the necessary support the need, as provided by Nigeria startup act 2022. And also ensuring the adoption of the technology, particularly as we know, blockchain technology ensures about information integrity, or data integrity. 

“And it is also applicable even for the Independent National Electoral Commission, where you need to preserve the integrity of data, and by the adoption of blockchain technology in the process, we will reach a situation where content or information, or data at their disposal cannot be altered. So with this approval, the blockchain and all its components and types have been approved in Nigeria and regulatory bodies start immediately developing regulatory instruments within their sector for effective implementation and adoption.

“Today, the Federal Executive Council has approved the National Blockchain Policy for Nigeria. As we all know, that the federal government of Nigeria had earlier approved the National Digital Economy policy and strategy for a digital Nigeria which was unveiled and launched by  President Muhammadu Buhari on the 28th of November 2019.

“In the National Digital Economy policy and strategy for a digital Nigeria, we have eight pillars. pillar number seven is digital society and emerging technologies in order to simplify the implementation of that pillar; the federal government of Nigeria has earlier approved the national policy on artificial intelligence and robotics that led to the establishment of the National Centre for artificial intelligence and robotics here in Abuja.

“In order to consolidate the implementation of the imagined technology pillar, the federal government of Nigeria today approve the national blockchain policy for Nigeria. This policy was involved through consultation with stakeholders where 56 institutions and personalities were involved in the process of conceptualizing developing and reviewing the policy. 

“And part of the approval of the Federal Executive Council is directing regulatory bodies to layers with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to ensure that they come up with regulatory instruments in all sectors of our economy and security. 

“In addition, in the approval, it involves establishment of a national security council. That Council will bring together relevant institutions of government to work together and this effort is going to be coordinated by NITDA, which happens to be the regulatory body of information technology”.

Also briefing,  Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo disclosed that the Council approved the sum of N 9.74 billion for the rehabilitation of portable water facilities for Apapa and Tin Can Island ports in Lagos State.

Deji Elumoye in Abuja