The minister of aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika has said that Arik Air is not suitable for a national carrier because its business plan is not in conformity with the idea of a national carrier.
Sirika who stated this while briefing newsmen at the end of the federal executive council meeting held today at the Presidential Villa, Abuja was reacting to the growing agitation that the airline should be made a national carrier.
It would be recalled that the managing director and chief executive officer of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Ahmed Kuru, had made the suggestion to change the status of the airline, which was taken over at the brink of bankruptcy by his agency.
He had argued that the airline has since been restructured and positioned on the path of growth and profitability, noting that a new airline will cost the federal government a fortune, especially in the face of the nation’s tight budget.
But Sirika said the federal government would rather establish a new national carrier than convert Arik Air into one.
“I think something is not understood very well from the standpoint of the Ministry of Aviation via the intended national carrier.
“The carrier that I intend to bring is such a carrier that will support the national economy, with $450 million GDP for 200 million people, very equipped to compete favourably.
“The international airlines that have dominated Africa, 80 per cent of those airlines are non-African. In view of the AU Agenda 2063, the Single African Aviation Market, we thought that there will be an airline that will take up that challenge; that will take advantage of it and be able to provide services to our people.
“Nigeria, being the first country to kick-start the declaration in 1999, to establish a one common market in Africa; at the time, we wanted to take advantage of the Nigeria Airways which was the strongest airline on the continent, and we thought that we could take advantage of that and it would pay Nigeria very well. Tables turned, decisions were reversed and now, Nigeria was unlucky to have an airline that can participate in that manner.
“So, the answer to your question is that Arik, as presently constituted, is not in line with the thinking of the ministry. It will not be able to give us that airline that we need.
“However, Arik as an entity, since it is private-sector driven, can either buy shares in the new ventures or invest in any manner in the business as presently approved.
“We are not saying once we have a national carrier, every other airline goes down. No. It is our duty to continue to support businesses,” said Sirika.