By Yunus Yusuf
The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika has promised to complete outstanding projects in the industry before the present administration completes its tenure by 2023.
Sirika made gave the assurance during the 25th Annual Conference and Awards Ceremony organised by the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) in Lagos on Wednesday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the conference was: “Nigeria’s Aviation Industry: Management, Policy and Regulations”.
The minister noted that the President Muhamadu Buhari administration had a vision of a sector that would provide utmost comfort, safety and security for majority of passenger before his tenure ran out.
Sirika, represented by the Commissioner for Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mr Akin Olateru also pledged to urgently improve operating environment for airlines operating in the country.
The minister said that the ministry was in consultation with relevant Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies to bring succor to the airlines.
Sirika highlighted that the ministry had been able to achieve zero import duties on aircraft engine, spare parts and special foreign exchange window for the aviation sector.
He said: “We have improved availability of aviation fuel in the industry and it had restructured the aviation agencies.
“Others are the improvement in aviation safety and security, upgrade of NCAT into a Regional Centre of Excellence.
“And we have achieved the introduction of policies on Remotely Piloted Aircraft, Employment Policies on the Enforcement of Expatriate Quota.”
Sirika noted that Nigeria presently had Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) with 89 countries.
He added that 15 countries had already indicated their preparedness to sign BASAs with the country while 13 other countries were in the threshold of renegotiation.
The minister said in 2016, after it had conducted a diagnosis of the aviation industry, he convened a conference of all stakeholders where they emerged with a very clear road map.
Sirika said the roadmap was for the development of the aviation sector with the ultimate aim of making aviation highly relevant to the Nigerian economy.
He said: “However, as you are aware, COVID-19 has put the global economy to the test, with air transport being undoubtedly the hardest hit by the pandemic.
“The statistics from the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) on COVID-19’s economic impact on Nigeria has revealed a revenue loss of 994 million dollars in 2020.
“In terms of employment at risk in Nigeria, it is 125,370 and loss of contribution to the GDP is 885 million dollars.”
Sirika said that the Federal Government was able to cushion the effects of the pandemic by providing intervention of fund of N5 billion for domestic airlines.
The minister said they could not have achieved all these without the cooperation, constructive criticism and great understanding of everybody in the industry.
The Chairman of the occasion, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia, commended the organisers for the choice of the theme, adding that there could not be a better time to discuss burning issues like this in an industry that was battling too many oppressive forces.
Mshelia, the Chairman of Westlink Airlines, said these forces were both manmade and natural.
“The natural is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated, not only the Aviation sector nay Nigeria alone. It is a scourge that shook every sector with devastating effects globally beginning from early 2020.
“As we all know, Aviation standards, management, policy and regulations on the global stage is over – sighted and supervised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
“Every country that is signatory, sends a representative to the ICAO council. I believe, therefore, that the motive of this theme will be to review, dissect,” he said.
Mshelia said the theme would also fine tune some of our existing policies and practices, which were in conflict with global norms and also affected our collective growth. (NAN)