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The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr Festus Keyamo may have rekindled hope for a national airline for Nigeria, saying the country needs a national airline that befits the status of the country as a giant of Africa.
He disclosed that what he inherited as Nigeria Air was not patriotic enough, maintaining that the project remains suspended until he gets a clear directive from President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on how to go about it to have a national carrier.
The Minister stated this on Thursday while fielding questions from journalists at the end of the in-house inauguration/induction for the newly appointed chief executive officers and directors of the aviation agencies in Abuja.
There are indications that a new national carrier may emerge that will totally be different from Nigeria Air promoted by a former Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika with totally a different name or with the same name but a different structure.
He said, “It is what I have always said. Nigeria Air remains suspended. It remains suspended and very soon, we will get a clear directive on it from Mr. President on how to go about it to have a national carrier. We need a national carrier that befitted the status of Nigeria. What I met on the ground was not patriotic enough”.
The Minister assured that the 18R runway of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos which had been under repairs for nearly a year would soon be completed, urging airlines to be patient by using the sole runway available for flight operations.
Speaking on the challenges facing the country’s carriers, Keyamo stated that the airlines are challenged by not just a lack of access to loans at a single-digit rate but many other factors such as lack of access to dry-lease at very good terms.
“Our local operators do not have access to aircraft. They are struggling. Most of them do wet leases to meet their local obligations. All over the world, airlines do not on wholesale purchase of aircraft.
“Even the biggest airlines like Emirates, Qatar and British Airways of this world, most of them have access to loans at single digit rate and we are doing 26% interest rate”.
He noted that there is no way the airlines would survive with a Bank interest rate of 26%, explaining that as a government, they have spoken to aircraft giants like Boeing and others to bring in aircraft to the domestic airlines for them to have access to leases at very good terms.
This is so, so that when we have enough aircraft, there would be competition among the airlines. We can cross that path”, he added.
On the astronomic fares charged by foreign airlines, he said it is so because foreign airlines are complaining about it and were not sure when they would get their money back.
“Most of them open the highest ticket inventory or the most expensive part of the tickets to Nigerian travellers because according to them before now, they did not know whether it would take one year or two years to get their money back. They are raising fares because of the devaluation of their money. They look at the length it takes them to get their money”.
“The government is addressing that issue now. Our airlines do not have enough aircraft to service many of the routes they have been designated under the reciprocal right given to them under the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) to service many routes”.
“If for instance, BA is doing 14 frequencies to Nigeria every week and United Nigeria and Air Peace are doing 14 flights to the UK, prices will crash. Why can’t they do it? It is because they don’t have access to aircraft while BA has access to aeroplanes at a single-digit interest rate”(www.naija247news.com)