There Was Never Any Nigeria Air – Festus Keyamo

Festus Keyamo

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo (SAN) on Monday provided insights into the controversies surrounding the Nigeria Air, which was officially inaugurated in May 2023, by the then Nigerian Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, saying there was never any Nigeria Air, but Ethiopian Airline painted in Nigerian colours and flying Nigerian flag.

Keyamo, who gave the insights in Abuja, at the ongoing Ministerial Sectoral briefings to mark the first anniversary of the President Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s Administration, reiterated that the Nigeria Air remains suspended.

It was never Air Nigeria, it was Ethiopian trying to flag our flag. It was not Air Nigeria. That is the truth. It was not Nigeria. It only printed Air Nigeria. It was an Ethiopian airline trying to fly our flag. If it is so, why not allow our local people to fly our flag. Why bring a foreigner to fly our flag?

“So nobody should deceive you that Air Nigeria, Air Nigeria must be indigenous, must be wholly Nigeria or must be for the full benefit of Nigerians, not that 60 per cent of the profit is given to another country. How does that benefit us? It remains suspended. It remains so”, he said.

The Minister said the ministry had successfully secured President Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s approval to restart all-over the concession of the nation’s major airports to make it more transparent.

This, he said is necessary because bureaucracy cannot not run public infrastructure.

“Until we do full concession of these airports and they are run professionally like private businesses, we are going to have these problems. That is the truth. So that is what we are doing. And the whole process, the President said we will go for the best in the world, in terms of airport management. And we will make it transparent process that all Nigerians , our compatriots, the National Assembly would not complain like they complained about the last process. The Unions we will carry them along because the unions are very important in that process to ensure ensure and assure them that their interests are protected. And Nigerians will see us as transparent. So that is one of our way forward on that”.

He also disclosed that there are concerted efforts between the ministry, National Security Adviser (NSA) and the ministry of interior to rid the airports of touts and undesirable elements, stressing that the three agencies will soon issue a joint memo on that.

According to him, efforts are being made to seek backup from relevant security agencies that carry arm to effectively combat touts some of whom also carry arm, adding that the collaborative of efforts would reduce the human contacts at the airports across the country.

He stated that going forward, the Federal Government will undertake the fresh design of the aerotropolis, adding that the ministry had already advertised for the consultants.

“We are calling for the best design consultants. It is in the budget, the money is in the budget, we put it there. The National Assembly agreed with us, the President agreed with us that we need to develop a new master plan for all the airports. So we have a clear roadmap on that. We are starting with the design of the aerotropolis, we are advertising for that, we are calling for entries and we are going to choose the best to do that. So that is our clear part on that” he added.

He said that is also currently focusing on ensuring that Nigeria is removed from the black book of the international leasing companies to allow local operators get access to leased aircrafts on good conditions the same way Ethiopia, Egypt, and others get.

“It is the key, empower them, make sure they get access to good aircraft the same way Emirates, British Airways get, all of these people, it is not magic, they don’t own those aircrafts, let us not be talking about poor economy, Bank cannot finance, no bank finances aircraft like that all over the world.

“It is not possible. It is the manufacturers or the leasing companies that do that. They give you, you run them. Most of these aircrafts you see owned by aircraft companies they have gone to up to 50 countries. They will operate for one year if cannot pay, they will take it, they will repaint it , they Ethiopia, if they cannot pay, they will repaint it and give it to Qatar, that is what happens. So our people should have access, why are not having access, we are on black book of the international leasing companies.

“Simple. They put Nigeria on the black book, they tell everybody don’t give them aircraft on dry lease, the only thing you get is wet lease, wet lease is ACMI or dark lease, what will happen, don’t put the aircraft in their total control. Wet lease is that the person giving you will be partly in control of that aircraft, that is why you some white men flying your local aircraft. And it is three times more expensive than dry lease because you pay in dollars , pay the Pilot, pay the crew, pay everything. And when you park the aircraft on the tarmac you must have a full tank. Full tank because in case they want to fly out they won’t look for JetA1, any day you are parking you must fill the tank. That is the agreement”.

According to relevant stakeholders, including Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Judge of Supreme Court,and others have agreed on amendment of Nigeria’s practice directions to say ‘no court order to give injunctions to keep aircraft in the country’.

He said the draft of the amendment of the practice directions is ongoing, stressing that it will give investors confidence, adding that the ministry is on the verge of concluding an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Boeing, and are in talks with France, Airbus and others.

Keyamo also said efforts are underway to attracting , Maintenance, repair and overhaul. Otherwise known called MROs.

“We are focused on attracting international investors to come and establish MRO in Nigeria” he said.

He said there is no MRO for the wide body aircrafts in the whole of West Africa, but Ibom Air is doing the first massive MRO in Nigeria which is 90% ready, adding that he promised the company full government certification as Airbus is already equipping the facility.

According to him, the MRO will allow operators to do their A, B, and C checks in the country, while working on transiting to eco-friendly airports.

He said that the achievements recorded within the nine months under review are divided into three parts including the completions of projects on ground, implemented policies within the period that have yielded results, the third is designing a clear direction for the ministry.

The Monday’ s sectorial ministerial briefing featured the Aviation and Aerospace Development Minister and the Minister of Agriculture.

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