Home » At Twilight of His Administration, Buhari Moves to Complete Developmental Projects in Aviation Sector

At Twilight of His Administration, Buhari Moves to Complete Developmental Projects in Aviation Sector

At Twilight of His Administration, Buhari Moves to Complete Developmental Projects in Aviation Sector

Chinedu Eze

There are indications that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is determined to bring to completion the projects he set out to execute in the aviation industry, which include the establishment of national carrier, the establishment of aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility, aircraft leasing company, aerospace university and construction of second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Although industry stakeholders can feel the urgency with which the administration is striving to complete these projects, many of them wonder why it waited till the twilight of his administration, which is about a year from now, to accelerate efforts to complete the projects.

During the inauguration of the new international terminal at the MurtalaMuhammed Airport, Lagos on Tuesday, President Buhari directed the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning to make funds available for the building of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. 

He stated that the building of the new terminals dovetailed with the government’s aviation roadmap, which was developed in 2016, for the purposes of establishing critical infrastructure. The infrastructure include a national carrier, maintenance, repairs and overhaul centre and improved airports terminals through concession, to boost aviation practice and take the industry to the next level, to reflect global standards. 

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, reiterated during the unveiling of the new terminal at the Lagos airport that the aviation roadmap was developed and approved by President Buhari on October 18, 2016.

He also assured Nigerians that the airport concession project (including the newly commissioned terminals) had reached advanced stage, adding that the Ministry of Aviation will conclude the  Request for Proposal (RFP) to the shortlisted firms before the end of March. 

“We expect to announce a partner in second quarter 2022 and handover by fourth quarter 2022,” Sirika said.

But stakeholders who spoke to THISDAY said they were not optimistic about the federal government promises and wondered why it waited till the twilight of the administration before it woke up to begin the projects.

THISDAY has been informed about the efforts being made by the executioners of aviation road map to ensure that the national carrier begins operation in July 2021. They argued that the process was delayed by COVID-19 lockdown and the 2019 elections.

“But we have advanced in the programme of realisng the project and we have recruited 10 highly skilled industry experts who are heading different departments in the planned airline to speed its realisation. Some of these experts have been deployed in the areas of sourcing for the operational fleet, operational offices, pushing the process of obtaining operational certificate and other critical areas. The request for bidding of the core investor was published in local and international media and the response was huge,” an informed source told THISDAY.

The source also disclosed that the whole process would be midwifed by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), stressing that government would only have five per cent of the stakes, while 95 per cent would go to private investors and core investor, which would be part of the 95 per cent would only have 49 per cent.

The core investor, THISDAY gathered would have capital structure needed to kick-start the airline and this was spelt out on the Outline Business Care (OBC) of the privatization process.

“The new airline will start operation in July, 2022 with three aircraft but it is expected to start growing from there. It will start with domestic operation and we are projecting that we will create 7, 000 jobs in the next five years from all the businesses in the aviation road map, the national carrier, MRO and the leasing company. There is not enough capacity right now in Nigeria, so there is a niche and the national carrier will close that gap. We are following the regulations strictly and we are compliant with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). We will provide absolute level playing field so there will be competition in the domestic travel market,” the source told THISDAY.

However, the General Secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART) and the former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), told THISDAY that the traffic at the Abuja airport does not require a second runway.

“I have repeated it many times that our annual air traffic does not require two runways in Lagos nor Abuja.  All we need is to extend each runway by a third of the present length and ensure periodic maintenance programme are adhere to it. What has been the traffic benefit of Lagos Airport when the second runway has only been available just for 12 hours operation for over 13 years when it has no runway lightings? It is not a second runway that is necessary but maintenance culture; this has been a problem not only in aviation but generally in our infrastructures of economic importance. 

Reacting to the delivering of the aforementioned projects in the aviation roadmap before end of the Buhari administration, the Managing Director of Flights and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, expressed doubt that they would be completed before the next election.

“By standard operating procedure you cannot get Air Operating Certificate (AOC) in less than nine months. What stage are they now for the national carrier? On the maintenance organisation, what concrete agreement have they done with major organisations? Their promises are not backed up by the substantiation of what is on ground. There is no commensurate activity that will convince anyone that those projects will be realised before the administration winds down. But governance is a continuum. This government should actually start the projects; if they don’t finish them, the next government will complete them. But they can install lighting on the second runway of the Lagos airport. That will be a credit to this administration,” he said.

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