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Buhari orders return of National Carrier

Do you remember Nigeria Airways? Our foremost National Carrier...well, the last time I checked it has been grounded. Its was established 1958 and ran aground in 2003 due to mismanagement.

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President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered the Ministry of Aviation to take rapid steps in re-establishing a new national carrier, Leadership newspaper reports

He also ordered the Nigerian aviation industry to take over the securing of the country’s airspace over the Gulf of Guinea from Ghana.

The president gave the directives when the permanent secretary of the Aviation ministry, Mrs. Binta Bello, led other officials of the ministry to brief him on the state of affairs of the ministry at the presidential villa, Abuja.

LEADERSHIP recalls that the Nigeria Airways, which was the country’s national carrier and established in 1958, was liquidated in 2003 due to mismanagement and inefficiency, with the airline heavily indebted.

The president said, “I am concerned about the enormous debt profile in the aviation sector. The federal government has to do something quickly because safety, security and international respectability are involved here.

“Our airports are the windows through which people see our country. Anybody coming into the country is likely to come through the airports. If we cannot secure and maintain our infrastructure, it will reflect very badly on us.”

After receiving the briefing, Buhari directed the Ministry of Aviation to speed up all processes and projects relating to the safety and security of Nigeria’s air transport system.

President Buhari further directed that counterpart funding for the upgrading of the international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu be captured in the 2016 budget.

On her part, Mrs. Bello told journalists after the meeting that Buhari had expressed concern that a country like Nigeria could not boast of a national air carrier, and directed that processes should commence for the re-establishment of one.

“The president has directed the ministry to look into the possibility of having a national carrier as soon as possible,” she said.

She said the ministry had briefed the president on the challenges domestic airlines were facing despite the federal government’s N300 billion intervention fund.

She said the airlines are hugely indebted to regulatory agencies under the Aviation ministry and that some of them were still struggling to maintain optimum operational capabilities.

Bello said the president was also briefed on the four state-of-the-art terminals being constructed with Chinese bank loan which will be ready by the first quarter of 2016.

“At the completion of this project, Nigerian will appreciate the work that has been put into the project. The capacity of the terminal has been expanded to contain big aircraft such as the A380 airbus. There will be other commercial activities such as is obtained in any international airport,” she noted.

Mrs. Bello further asserted that the president directed the ministry to start the process of taking over the airspace immediately since the neighbouring countries now had the capacity to cover their own airspace.

“We have a directive by the president to start the process of securing and managing the Nigerian airspace over the gulf of Guinea which Ghana had been maintaining since 1945, and there is a move on the ground by Togo and Republic of Benin to take over the management of their own airspace from Ghana,” she said.

She assured Nigerians and the international community that the country’s airspace was safe and had just recorded a score of over 90 per cent by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).