· Releases trapped $300m to foreign airlines
· More foreign airlines threaten to leave Nigeria
Nigeria’s aviation sector will enter a new phase next year as the Federal Government moves to float a national carrier.
To ensure the smooth take off of the airline, the government intends to appoint a transaction adviser next week to facilitate the exercise.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, affirms that “between now and Wednesday next week, we will appoint a transaction adviser for the proposed national carrier. Once that is in place, Nigerians will have options, there will be competition, good aircraft and this will bring the prices (fares) down.”
The minister spoke on Wednesday with journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He explained that the government was looking at starting the national carrier within the next 12 months, adding that unlike in the past when the Federal Government wholly owned the Nigeria Airways, the new national carrier will be run by the private sector with the government having only a five percent stake.
Sirika, who did not name those interested to serve as the transaction advisors, said that “we do not want to discourage anybody from participating.
“We want to make it broad-based and we want as many people as possible on board. We want people to compete. Just wait and at the right time we will let Nigerians know those who will be involved in the new carrier”.
On the planned withdrawal of some foreign airlines from Nigeria, the minister said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has made available $300 million for foreign airlines out of their $600 million earnings which they had been unable to repatriate to their country due to the scarcity of foreign exchange.
“As regards carriers like Egypt Air, British Airways, Turkish Air, which fly in here with undesirable aircraft while they put on other routes better aircraft despite the fact that the Nigerian routes pay them more, we have been talking to them seriously and ensuring that they change their fleets.
“However, some of the airline operators are constrained by the infrastructure we have in place. For example, Emirates will love to bring the kind of aircraft they fly around the world but the apron in Abuja is not supporting that service.
“That is why the aircraft they take to Lagos is different from the one they take to Abuja. These inadequacies are also being addressed and once that is done, we will have befitting aircraft coming into the country,” he said.
The FEC also approved the augmentation of the contract for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Airport, now at the cost of N1.68 billion and awarded it to the original contractor, Inter Bau.
The second contract, which is for the refurbishment of Phase II of the Port Harcourt Airport domestic terminal building, was raised from N746.830 million to N1.41 billion.
More foreign airlines threaten to leave Nigeria
Although the Federal Government has announced the release of $300 million for foreign airlines to ease their forex demands, the Association of Foreign Airlines’ Representatives in Nigeria (AFARN) has warned that more of its members were set to close shop because of the current high exchange rate.
The association disclosed on Wednesday that its members were yet to enjoy the concession granted to them to access foreign exchange at the inter-bank foreign exchange market.
AFARN President, Mr. Kingsley Nwokoma, told journalists in Lagos that the high exchange rate was killing their businesses.
Nwokoma said that in spite of the aviation minister’s intervention, nothing has changed because dollar scarcity had persisted.
He pleaded with the Federal Government to remove the hurdles to the local and foreign airlines’ access to foreign exchange.
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