By Samson Echenim
The Federal Government has approved the sum of N2.97 billion for the upgrade of Port Harcourt International Airport and rejected the proposal of a national carrier by Arik Air.
According to HadiSirika, minister of Aviation, the sum will cover for the airport’s fencing and perimeter road.
Sirika said, “This project was abandoned since 2011, and of course, in response to the philosophy of President MuhammaduBuhari to complete all abandoned projects and ongoing projects, this safety, security critical item felt in our wisdom, that it needs to be completed. Variation was brought to council; it has been approved earlier; the variation is in the sum of N271.8 million; this of course jacked up the contract sum to N2.97 billion and the new completion period of six months.
“The perimeter fence is understood I hope; and the then road is the road that goes around the perimeter to allow for surveillance. It will allow for monitoring of the fence integrity and also for additional security; to be able to go round the circumference of the airport for improved security and safety operations.’’
Sirika had earlier said that the Federal Executive Council made an approval of N574.3 million for insurance and special risk for the assets in Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria.
He said it included the personnel that would be operating the machines.
“This includes of course VAT of five per cent to cover from June 10, 2019 to 2022. Yearly payments will be made in accordance with the extant laws and regulations,’’ he said
The minister, while responding to questions, made clarifications on the status of Arik air with regards to intended national carrier. He said that there was need to understand the standpoint of the Ministry of Aviation on the issue.
Sirika said that the carrier that he intended to bring was such a carrier that would support national economy with 450 million dollar GDP for 200 million people, very equipped to compete favourably. According to him, 80 percent of international airlines that have dominated Africa are non-African.
“In view of the AU Agenda 2063, the Single African Aviation Market, we thought that there will be an airline that will take up that challenge; that will take advantage of it and be able to provide services to our people.
“Nigeria, being the first country to kick-start the declaration in 1999, to establish a one common market in Africa; at the time, we wanted to take advantage of the Nigeria Airways which was the strongest airline on the continent, and we thought that we could take advantage of that and it would pay Nigeria very well.
“Tables turned, decisions were reversed and now, Nigeria was unlucky to have an airline that can participate in that manner. So, the answer to your question is that Arik, as presently constituted, is not in line with the thinking of the ministry. It will not be able to give us that airline that we need; however, Arik as an entity, since it is private-sector driven, can either buy shares in the new ventures or invest in any manner in the business as presently approved,‘’ he said.