By G9ija

The national carrier, Nigeria Air is expected to take off in April 2022, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has announced.

This follows the approval of the outline business case for the establishment of the national carrier by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday.

Sirika, who made the announcement in Abuja while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the FEC meeting, explained that it was the sixth attempt to get the outline business case approved.

“Today in Council, civil aviation presented two memoranda,” he said. “The first one is approval for the award of contract for the provision of Automated Civil Aviation Regulatory Equipment, including software support and training, which will be located in Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

“The next one also is approval of the outline business case for the establishment of the national carrier and this is the sixth time the memorandum appeared before Council. The sixth time, we got lucky to be passed by Council.”

“The structure of the proposed airline, government will be owning not more than five per cent. So, five per cent is the maximum equity that government will take, then 46 per cent will be owned by Nigerian entrepreneurs.

“So, if you add that, it’s 51 per cent. So, it’s 51 per cent majority shareholding by Nigerians and then 49 per cent will be held by strategic equity partner or partners that will be sourced during the procurement phase, which is the next phase,” the minister stated.

When the outline kicks off expectedly in April 2022, according to him, it will generate about 70,000 jobs in the first few years – a number higher than the aggregate number of employees in the Federal Civil Service workforce.

“But one important item is the AU agenda 2063, which speaks to the integration of Africa, which speaks to the cause and trade within Africa that is intra-Africa and, to which also, another flagship project of AU agenda 2063 called the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

“Now, the only way, the quickest way that you can integrate Africa is by air because if you want to interconnect all the 54 nations of Africa, via rail or road, or waterways, which is even impossible, the quantum of money that you need to do all of these, the time it will take to develop this infrastructure, as well as the maintenance cost, is almost prohibitive,” he added.

Noting that such a project is doable but time-taking, Sirika believes within a year, the African countries can be connected via aviation with the right policy in place.

He said the government arrived at the choice of name, colour, and logo, among others for the national carrier after a national debate that involved thousands of people.

“It was launched also in Farnborough as far back as 2018,” the minister said. “So, the business case is a public document. It will be on our website; you can download it and we can give you copies. This airline will pick up and start, by God’s grace, on or before April 2022.”

On the Automated Civil Aviation Regulatory Equipment, he explained that it would allow all of the activities of civil aviation regulation to be done electronically on one platform.

“It is called ‘the truth machine’ in the quotation in Europe because all of the truth of regulation of civilisation will appear on this platform, it’s an extremely important software that the world has now come to terms with,” said Sirika.