By G9ija

The Federal Government on Monday said that its revenue from the aviation sector will see sharp decline up till first quarter of 2022 due to expected lower passengers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, disclosed this in Abuja when he appeared before the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, during its ongoing stakeholders’ interactive session on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).

Sirika said that in view of declining revenue, the Ministry will not support a proposal by the panel that overheads of its agencies be mopped up to fund the national budget.

He noted that aviation was the fastest growing sector of the economy, but the growth had been stalled by the outbreak of the pandemic.

Sirika who was responding to a proposal by the Chairman of the panel, said: “On the question regarding challenging times and whether the overhead of the agencies will be mopped up to fund the national budget, I don’t think so.

“I don’t think so because of the nature of both the Ministry and its agencies and what is facing us.

“Take for example the COVID-19; we are the greatest hit sector. At the time when we came and in order to implement our agenda, which is called aviation road map, when we began to implement it we slowly became the second fastest growing sector.

“Within the three years of implementation of that roadmap, we became in 2018, the second fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy and just before COVID-19, we became the fastest growing sector in the Nigerian economy.

“But unfortunately, COVID came and we shut down. We are not in the business of selling phones that we can still sell and get the required revenue.

“The revenue for yesterday is lost. Therefore, we were hugely impacted by the COVID and with this COVID, I think until quarter four of 2021 and perhaps quarter one of 2022, we will continue to see sharp decline in passengers and that is directly proportional to the revenue that we collect, because people’s confidence has to be raised.

“They have to begin to want to fly again and certain factors that encourages propensity to fly are also being eroded during this period.

“So we are in a difficult and challenging times and we do not have solutions to it even as advanced countries are spending huge amounts of money to support civil aviation businesses.

“The government, because of the challenge of funding has not been able to respond to civil aviation requests and civil aviation funding like other countries have done.

“If government is not able to fund us because of the challenge of income, then government should not take the little that we have.

“Every single agency in civil aviation is so critical that we need to fund it and because we understand the nature of this business, that was why we have now introduced the concession of our airports.

“We have now done the outline business case; we are now going ahead for the procurement to concession these airports.

“The reason is simple and that is because this government, the APC administration, is social democratic in nature, it does not want to sell national assets.

“It wants to keep the assets with the people but we can concession them and improve them to make them better.

“We are very sure that when we do that we will improve the revenue of the nation.”