Two local airlines owe aviation agencies N513bn -Sirika

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*Minister of state for viation, Capt. Hadi Sirika (R) speaking to journalists. With him are the director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCCA), Capt. Usman Muhtar, (L) and the director, operation and training, (DOT), Capt. Abdullahi Sidi (Behind) at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

The minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has said that two domestic airlines owe a total of N513 billion to aviation parastatals.

Speaking with journalists today at the general aviation terminal (GAT), Lagos, Sirika said the present administration would not allow airlines to accumulate debts and then run to Abuja to ask for waiver.

He said the domestic airlines would make more money if they get their model right adding that everyone of them wants to run scheduled flights whereas “there is a lot they can do in aviation.”

“There is an airline that owes one of the agencies N13bn. There is an airline that owes total debt of N500 billion which is its collective indebtedness of that airline. That airline crashed or at least it is being taken over.

“I think it is getting their priority right and doing the business model that would bring money for them.

“Under this administration, it is not going to happen to allow them to continue to pile debt and go to the villa and the debts are either waived off or the debts are post- dated. No villa will call any airline. There is no door that is open for such practice,” he said.

He therefore advised the airlines to get their act together to “reorganise, re-engineer and take advantage and be futuristic and looking at the bigger future and organize themselves and take advantage of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) rather than sit while the train is moving.”

Speaking further on SAATM, Sirika said Nigeria was among the first 11 countries that went to Yamoussoukro and took a decision to liberalize the sector and open the sky for Africa for growth, connectivity, development, aviation security and job creation.

“Now, arising from that and Nigeria being a signatory to that, the SAATM became the issue and Nigeria also joined to become the first 23 countries to make that solemn declaration on SAATM and I think Nigeria with population of 173m people, half the size of West Africa, would be the greatest beneficiary to this.

“At the time Nigeria was pushing for this you and I know we had Nigeria Airways and we thought we would take advantage of it. Now we don’t and our airlines for one reason or another have not grown to that capacity and this is why the government felt that we should set in motion to create a robust carrier that would take advantage of this SAATM for the benefit of the Nigerian people.

“So I believe we are on the right course. I believe that this private sector-led and driven airline once established would become the dominant carrier in Africa because the market is Nigeria. Its centrality to Africa, by its geography is god- given. And with the market of 173million people, this is a large population and Nigeria travels almost for nothing. So if you talk of advantage, Nigeria is at a vantage position…,” he said.

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