Uncertainty surrounds the Nigeria Air project as the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, over the weekend, said the final decision on the controversial Nigeria Air project rests on the table of President Bola Tinubu.
Keyamo, speaking with journalists on the sidelines of the Aviation Industry Stakeholders’ Forum organised by the ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, held in Lagos, disclosed that the country was working behind the scene and round the clock to solve visa bans placed on Nigerian travellers to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to Keyamo, UAE was aggrieved with Nigeria for disclosing relevant agreements reached during the recent visit of President Tinubu to the Emirate.
“On Nigeria Air, that should be on the table of Mr President to take a final decision. However, the UAE complained because we go too quickly on air to mention what we have agreed on but we are working round the clock behind the scenes. Let me not breach the agreement we reached in the UAE again. You are dragging me into an area that puts us into problem again. So we are working round the clock behind the scenes and that will be myself in Dubai in 2 weeks to dot the i’s and cross the t’s,” he said.
To him, “I took away a lot of inputs from stakeholders, contributions from those who have enormous interest about the industry. Now, I am well and more informed and we will take all this information to our ministry retreat in Warri starting from Thursday and at that meeting all of us including the technical people will sit to see how we can incorporate all of this into major decisions by the federal government,
“On Nigeria Air, that should be on the table of Mr president to take a final decision
The UAE complained because we go too quickly on air to mention what we have agreed on but we are working round the clock behind the scenes. Let me not breach the agreement we reached In the UAE again. You are dragging me into an area that puts us into problem again. So we are working round the clock behind the scenes and that will be myself in Dubai in 2 weeks to dot the eye and cross the Ts.”
The minister, however, bemoaned the business model of local airline operators, saying, starting airline business with wet lease aircraft isn’t sustainable for the industry.
According to him, the government can only support local operators when they know their business model is sustainable. “NCAA will roll out whatever they want to roll out, if you want us to be strict about it then we will go back to what the former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, did with the banks. If we do that then you can’t run an airline business till you know you are ready.
Then, we know that when you have problems, the government can support you.
“We are complaining when NCAA says you can’t start an airline business until you have six aircraft from 2024 these are effort regulators are putting in place to know that airlines that emerge are strong enough and ready for the business so that government can intervene when they have problems but government cannot be the big brother when you get two aircraft on wet lease agreement from somewhere in the world, you applied for licence when they give you then you think you are now an airline operator but after going for the first C Checks you are In problem,” he stated.
He also disclosed that the federal government will review all the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) Nigeria signed with other countries.
The decision to review the BASAs is coming on the heels of the numerous complaints by professionals and stakeholders in the aviation industry that some of the agreements were skewed to favour other countries to the detriment of Nigeria.
He further argued that, most of the BASAs entered into by Nigeria with other countries were signed when Nigeria lacks the required aviation capacity to reciprocate and that they are long overdue for review.
Keyamo said, all the BASAs Nigeria signed with other countries will be reviewed, calling on airlines and other stakeholders to exercise patience.