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Reps committee rallies behind Nigeria Air, flag carriers to deepen stake in AfCFTA

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House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila

The House of Representative Committee on Aviation has rallied behind the proposed national carrier to deepen Nigeria’s stake in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) pact.

The new chairman of the committee, Nnolim Nnaji, who spoke in Lagos, also held that Nigeria needs strong flag carriers to play a pivotal role in the emerging free trade arrangement.

Recall that the Federal Government in July 2018 unveiled the name and logo of the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, at the Farnborough International Public Air show in London, ahead of the initial take-off on December 24.

As contained in the Outline Business Case (OBC) approved by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the airline is a Public Private Partnership (PPP), with 95 per cent share pushed to investors while the government will own just five per cent stake.

The December take-off was, however, suspended indefinitely to allow provision for its counterpart funding in the 2019 budget, among other nagging issues. As at the last check, the sum of N8.7 billion has been budgeted for the national carrier in the 2019 budget.

Nnaji, who represents Nkanu East/Nkanu West Federal Constituency, Enugu State, said it was regrettable that the country has remained passive in the continental aviation market since Nigeria Airways was liquidated, despite huge passenger traffic out of Nigeria daily.

“Though, floating a fully government-owned airline may not be an alternative, we will work closely with the Executive arm of the government to ensure that competent local airlines are supported to assume the status of flag carriers and operate internationally.

“We all know the important role aviation plays in stimulating international trade, so if we must be relevant in AfCFTA initiative, our aviation must be of global standards in every aspect,” Nnaji said.

The lawmaker added that findings had shown that most of the foreign carriers operating into the country have continued to exploit Nigerians with very exorbitant fares since the exit of Nigeria Airways, adding that the National Assembly would through legislation and every possible means seek to stem the tide henceforth.

“I have also discovered that all the foreign airlines maintain city offices where they sell tickets directly to passengers as against what is obtainable globally, thereby denying our local travel agents the opportunity of earning legitimate commissions that would have reduced capital flights and provided employment for our people.

“The regulatory authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), would be made to explain the reasons for this anomaly,” he said.

Nnaji assured that his committee would partner with agencies and the Ministry of Aviation, where necessary, to make the country’s airspace safer.

He said NCAA must be strengthened to carry out its oversight responsibility without fear or favour.

He disclosed that his committee will be engaging the leadership of the sector as soon as the House resumes from its break to further identify areas that need to be addressed to reposition the industry for efficiency and reliability.


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