Sirika pledges to open skies, highlights local sector growth at ICAO
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has pledged Nigeria’s commitment to the liberalisation agenda of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to deepen growth of the sector locally and in Africa.
At the opening of the 41st Assembly of ICAO, in Montreal, Canada, Sirika said the Nigerian government had continued to maintain properly funded agencies in order to enhance aviation safety, and ensure effective and efficient provision and management of infrastructure in all aspects of the industry as well as guarantee its sustainable development.
He added that Nigeria had been a great supporter of liberalisation and continued to champion the open skies’ efforts in Africa through the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) and the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
The minister commended African States and African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) for their renewed and vigorous commitment to the development of air transportation in Africa, especially the implementation of SAATM.
“This will not only enhance air connectivity in the continent, it will also promote tourism, trade, commerce, integration and economic development, as well as contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in accordance with African Union agenda 2063,” Sirika said.
He informed the Assembly that Nigeria’s efforts on liberalisation had led to significant increase in the operations of foreign and domestic airlines and utilisation of airports, resulting in an yearly traffic growth of over eight per cent.
He said: “Since the coming of President Buhari, we have quadrupled the passenger numbers, doubled the number of airports, doubled the number of airlines and increased catering and other business, such that aviation before COVID-19 became the fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy.
“Our determination is to make Nigeria the most competitive hub of the African region, and make air travel the preferred mode of transportation, taking advantage of our population of over 215 million, 923,768 square kilometres land mass, at the centre of the continent with rising middle class and modest formal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $450 billion.
“We are fully aware that achieving these would require a robust industry that is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally friendly, with modern and adequate infrastructure. This has been the focus of the Nigerian government and has been succeeding thus far,” he said.
In recognition of his commitments to the Assembly and its ideals, Sirika was at the session honoured as a Champion of the ‘No Country Left Behind initiative’ of ICAO.
President of the ICAO Council, Salvatore Siacchitano, said the award was in recognition of his sterling contributions to the implementation of the initiative, not only in Nigeria, but also other member nations.
Siacchitano said: “Nigeria remained the only country whose Minister has attended three consecutive Assembly meetings as Chief Delegate with quality contributions at all the sessions and further commended the Minister for ensuring that the country’s representatives at ICAO since his assumption of office are not only highly experienced professionals but also committed to the ideals of the organisation.”