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‘New national carrier to drive open sky treaty, benefits’

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The Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika

Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has said that plan for a new national carrier is already at an advanced stage and its set up will drive the open sky treaty recently signed with 22 African countries.

Sirika, who spoke with reporters in Lagos yesterday, said proper roll-out and its establishment would take place within the next few months before the end of this current administration.

Meanwhile, the minister has apologised to onboard passengers and members of the public over the Dana Air plane emergency door fall-off incident, saying investigation was ongoing and would be made public by weekend.

Sirika said that in the next one or two months maximum, both the outline business case for the transaction and the full business case for the national carrier would be rolled out after which processes for the carrier’s set up would begin.

“I will say that we are very close to having the national carrier established. Certainly, it will be within the first term of this administration,” he said.

The minister, who added that the national carrier is crucial to full implementation of bilateral agreements, especially the new Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), otherwise called open sky treaty, noted that the treaty, which Nigeria signed with 22 African countries, is aimed at growth, development, more jobs, more security, more connectivity and passenger satisfaction at airports.

He said: “Nigeria with 173 million people, the two-thirds of West Africa’s population, will be one of the biggest beneficiaries. At the time Nigeria was pushing for this treaty, we had the Nigerian Airways to take advantage of it. Now, we don’t have it and our airlines are, for one reason or the other, have not grown to that capacity and this is why government felt that we should set in motion a national carrier that will take advantage of all these airspace liberalisation and agreements for the benefit of the Nigerian people.

“I believe we are on the right course. I believe that this private sector-led and driven airline when established will become the dominant carrier in Africa because the market is in Nigeria and it is central. So, Nigeria is at a very vantage position to take advantage of this SAATM.”

He said while the open sky treaty is being implemented, it would take between one and two years to be fully operational.

The local carriers that are supposed to reciprocate had earlier kicked against the treaty, saying the business environment is not healthy for local carriers to compete with their African counterparts.

The minister, however, urged local carriers to re-strategise for the new dispensation instead of complaining.

On the Dana Air incident, he said it was quite traumatising, but by design, the incident could not have happened in-flights at altitude as to cause an accident since such airplanes are pressurised, forcing doors to remain shut at altitude.


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