Nigeria raises hope on new national carrier with N79 bln budget, 10 new airports
By GFDNews Correspondent
Nigeria’s government said it has set aside a total of N78.96 billion in the 2021 budget to fund the take-off of the country’s new national carrier while proposing to build 10 new airports across the country.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika said the establishment of the national carrier would be carried out in partnership with the private sector.
Sirika, who was at the National Assembly to defend the budget allocation to his ministry before the parliament also disclosed that Nigeria plans to site 10 new airports in Benue, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Yobe, in addition others taken over by the Federal Government, namely Gombe, Kebbi, Dutse, and Zuru airports.
“In 2021, the sum of N78.960 billion is being proposed for capital expenditure at the headquarters in the aviation ministry and the emphasis will focus on the implementation of the Aviation Roadmap as directed by Mr. President.
“The roadmap would be implemented through Public Private Partnership (PPP), topmost of which will be the establishment of a national carrier,” Sirika told the lawmakers.
Last year, the government had approved a N47.43 billion take-off grant for the proposed new national carrier but nothing happened at the end of the day as the government failed to implement its proposal.
In November last year, Sirika told stakeholders at an aviation forum that a viability gap funding (VGF) of $155 million (47.43 billion naira) at the official exchange rate of N306 to a dollar) was required for the Nigeria Air project.
He said then that the VGF was in line with the outline business case that would enable the airline to start operations before the introduction of private equity funds.
In July 2018, the government, through its Ministry of Transportation, the aviation arm, had announced that Nigeria Air would commence operation before the end of 2018, the government later announced the suspension of the project after fund have been committed to logo design, investors roadshow and some other preliminary without given reason for the suspension.
The aviation minister justified the siting of an airport in Kogi state, which because of its proximity to Abuja and Ilorin in Kwara State, which already have airports said Kogi is a key agricultural state and deserves an airport.
“We have a lot of agricultural activities around there. There is fishery; there is perishable item production and so on. So siting an airport there is quite apt. For me, it is something we should have done long ago for its importance,” Sirika said.
The minister had told the nation two weeks ago that the government is planning to double the numbers of airports in the country by 2023.
“We understood the principles and the importance of air connectivity and it is a very important sector. It boosts our economy and we believe investment in this sector will do well for our economy.
“Before the end of 2023, we would have doubled the number of airports in Nigeria. We understand the importance of aviation infrastructure as a critical component for the working of our economy and our national security assets,” Sirika said.
Nigeria currently has 31 airports with 26 of the airports are operated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), five of which are functional international airports. It also has a state-owned airport located in Akwa Ibom State.
Experts said more than 60 percent of the airports are underutilized and post losses all year round due to low passengers and activities.