National carrier gets N400m allocation despite failure to begin operations - PUNCH
BY Okechukwu Nnodim
The Federal Government plans to spend N400m as working capital on its proposed national carrier which has failed to begin operations and has remained on the discussion table since 2015.
It disclosed this in the 2022 appropriation bill that was submitted to the National Assembly on Thursday by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
In the bill, the Federal Ministry of Aviation provided a budget of N400m as working capital for the national carrier, describing it as an ongoing project.
Since three years after the Federal Government unveiled the branding and livery for the proposed airline, named Nigeria Air, the project had remained a subject of continuous debate.
Officials at the aviation ministry, however, stated on Friday that plans to get the airline up and running were still in place.
“This, of course, is why you saw the amount that was budgeted for it as working capital in the 2022 appropriation bill,” an official at the ministry, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, stated.
In May this year, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, tweeted that discussions for the project was held at the United States Embassy in Abuja.
This came as Nigerians condemned the continued delay on the part of the Federal Government in establishing the national airline.
In July 2018, the Federal Government unveiled the branding and livery for the new airline, Nigeria Air, and stated that the carrier would be inaugurated at the end of that year.
Sirika unveiled the carrier at a press conference during the Farnborough Air Show in London that year.
“I am very pleased to tell you that we are finally on track to launching a new national flag carrier for our country, Nigeria Air.
“We are all fully committed to fulfilling the campaign promise made by our President, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015. We are aiming to launch Nigeria Air by the end of this year,” the minister had stated.
He also stated that the government had obtained the Certificate of Compliance from the Nigerian Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission and would go into investor search.
“I am confident that we will have a well-run national flag carrier that is a global player, compliant with international safety standards and one which has the customer at its heart,” the minister had said.
But for more than three years down the line, no national carrier has been inaugurated, as against the initial plan to inaugurate the airline before the end of 2018.
Rather, the government through the aviation ministry had been saying that discussions were still ongoing for the proposed airline.
“The plan is still in place and the processes for the establishment are still being pursued despite the delay since it was unveiled,” the aviation ministry official stated.
The ministry had also in May this year stated that private investors were to raise $250m to start up the national airline.
It disclosed this in a document on the updated status of the government’s aviation roadmap that was seen in Abuja at the FMA.
FG appropriates N20bn for second Abuja airport runway
Meanwhile, the ministry stated in the latest 2022 appropriation bill that it would require N20bn for the construction of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
There had been repeated calls among public and private entities urging the Federal Government to construct a second runway at the NAIA in order to enhance flight operations at the country’s second busiest airport.