Aviation Minister Highlights What President Buhari Should Do For The Sector
Nigeria Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to prioritize access to forex for both local and foreign airlines in Nigeria.
Speaking yesterday at the commissioning of the new terminal building at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos by the President, Sirika said “Mr. President, aviation business suffers from issue of access to foreign exchange by local and foreign airlines and the ability to repatriate blocked funds. Nigeria currently holds $283m of foreign airlines funds blocked in the country. I would like to humbly request the support of the Central Bank, through the directive of Mr. President, to prioritize access to forex for all carriers both local and foreign. and to work out a mechanism to clear the existing backlog urgently and prevent subsequent build up.”
Sirika equally urged the president to address the challenge of Jet-A1 which has made flights to be “unduly delayed and/or cancelled unpleasantly. While apologizing to our teaming passengers, I wish to use this medium to humbly request Mr. President to direct NNPC to import Jet-Al in good quantities and devise means to sustain supply as well as directing CBN to allocate Forex for the major marketers to sustain supply.”
He further said the country stands to gain significant benefits in restoring and maintaining connectivity within, to and from the country stating that “analysis from IATA shows that aviation sector provides N341bn GDP contribution, 160,000 local jobs created and N535bn expenditure from visitors will be solely generated from restoring and maintaining this connectivity” adding that “these are the numbers at risk if that connectivity is threatened by the continuous travel restrictions due to current pandemic.”
He assured the general public that the Ministry “is committed to proper maintenance of all the terminal buildings and would integrate them with other infrastructure to ensure that passengers and other users have pleasant experiences each time they make use of them.”
The new Lagos terminal constructed by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) has the capacity to process 14 million passengers per annum and built on a land mass of approximately 56,000 square metres with 66 check-in counters.
Sirika declared that “the Airport Concession project (including the newly commissioned terminals) has reached advanced stage. The Ministry will be issuing Request for Proposal (RFP) to the shortlisted firms before the end of March. We expect to announce a partner in 2nd Quarter 2022 and handover by 4th Quarter 2022.”
In his speech, President Buhari lauded the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the completion of the new terminal, stressing that it would further create more jobs for qualified Nigerians especially the youth. Buhari specifically said that the new terminal would create additional 3,000 direct and indirect jobs, while the sector’s contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would further be enhanced.
He said: “This event showcases our strong commitment to the growth of the Nigerian economy despite the challenge of finance facing the country. The commitment of this administration includes agriculture, aviation and infrastructure development.
“Our aviation roadmap developed in 2016 has been consistent with infrastructure development. We have designated Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports as free trade zone, while we also removed Valued Added Tax (VAT) from air transport.”
Other facilities in the terminal include five baggage collection carousels, 16 Immigration desks at arrival, 28 Immigration desks at departure, eight security screening points, six passenger boarding bridges (out of which two have already been installed), two food courts, four premium lounges and 22 guest rooms and spa. There are also 16 airline ticketing offices, visa on arrival and port health facility, as well as praying area, more than 3,000 square metres of duty free space and approximately 5,000 square metres of lettable utility space.
CCECC had commenced construction of four new terminals at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt airports in 2013 with completion period fixed for 20 months.
Its president, Yuan Li had told the government during the visit of the Nigeria’s high-powered delegation to the country that the quality of the work to be done at the airports would be of the highest international standard comparable to similar projects executed by the company in other parts of the world.
The Nigerian Government had secured $500 million loan deal from the Exim Bank of China for the projects, while additional counterpart funding of $100 million was added by the Nigerian Government.
Also speaking at the event, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State lauded Buhari for giving infrastructure priority in its government. He noted that the three projects commissioned on Tuesday; Fertilizer, Lekki refinery and the new terminal would change the status of the country.
According to him, they would not only create jobs for the teeming populace but will also open up the country for foreign investments and opportunities.