President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said he was under serious pressure from Nigerians to establish a national airline.
AS Nigeria hosts International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, Buhari reiterated the determination of his administration to speed up the improvement of aviation infrastructure in the country for the benefit of the country’s economic development.
The president, represented Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the country would benefit greatly from investment inflow after the meeting, which started, yesterday, in Abuja.
Speaking while receiving the President of ICAO, Muyiwa Aliu, at State House, Abuja, yesterday, Buhari told his guests that he was under tremendous pressure from many patriotic Nigerians to establish a national carrier. “I equally support a national airline for both patriotic and economic reasons. We have enough trained citizens, including pilots and engineers. But Nigerians need to know how we lost the one we had before,” he said, referring to the defunct Nigeria Airways.
Buhari declared his total support and commitment to work with regulatory agencies in the aviation sector to make air travel safer throughout the country. According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President, who received three awards recently won by Nigeria from ICAO, expressed delight with the high ranking accorded Nigeria in safety and security at the nation’s airports, following measures put in place to address gaps in airport security.
The statement further stated that Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who led the ICAO delegation, informed President Buhari that the Nigeria was hosting the meeting of International World Aviation Forum in Abuja, adding that it was the first time such a conference would hold anywhere outside Montreal, Canada. He said over 40 aviation ministers and representatives from 70 countries, World Bank, African Development Bank, manufacturers of aircraft and aviation equipment will attend this year’s conference focusing on “Financing Development of Aviation Infrastructure.”
In an interview with the State House correspondents after the closed-door meeting with President Buhari, Sirika, said: “The purpose of this forum is to connect needs and sources of financing for member states. “Nigeria will not be left behind. There is World Bank, Boeing, Airbus, African Development Bank, and so on. Nigeria will not sit by. We will take advantage of the opportunity to close some deals if we can or at least agree to something and sign some Memorandum of Understanding regarding not only the national carrier but financing of others infrastructural needs of the country.”
“This is very important to us and we are grateful to ICAO for agreeing to host the forum in Nigeria. We will make sure we make, progress before we depart. “We have been working since we came, Aviation is beyond robust airport or carrier, there is a lot more. What is more important show safe you take off from one point and land safely on the other point.
“The Civil Aviation Centre Zaria is now called Nigeria Aviation College of Technology, has become regional, center of excellence, one of the best in the world, not more than 20of their kind around the world. This is a plus for this administration that we took it there. “For the first time ever Nigeria has certified two of its airports: Abuja and Lagos according to the standards and the recommended practices of International Civil Aviation Organisation. For me this is a great achievement.”
Also speaking on the benefits Nigeria will derive from hosting the meeting, President of ICAO Council, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, said: “Nigeria will benefit in terms of infrastructure development and the fact that you have the heads of IATA, which is an association of airlines transit international, the Civil Air Navigation Services Association, manufactures like Boeing and of course financing institutions- the World Bank.
“There will be an inflow of private sector investment in the sector not only for airport infrastructure but air navigation as well as capacity building. So, there are significant benefits Nigeria will reap from the event. It will help Aviation develop more rapidly because it is so important for social economic integration not only of nigeria but in the African region. “Aviation is a catalyst for social economic development and there is a lot of benefits to derive downstream from aviation.”
The Secretary General of the African Civil Aviation Commission, Iyabo Shoshina, said the country could use aviation as catalyst for growth. She stated that countries like Ghana, Togo, Rwanda, and Ethiopia are using aviation to develop their economy. On his part, the Vice President, African Development Bank, AfDB, Pierre Guislain, who is the Vice President for private sector infrastructure and industrialization, said: “West and Central Africa are the worst connected regions in Africa and probably in the world. “So there are specific challenges here that we are keen to meet and to help other African and international stakeholders meet.”