The ongoing issue around the establishment of the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, has continued to pit domestic carriers against the government at the federal level.
The dispute, which took a new turn last week when the airlines petitioned a court to halt the Nigeria Air/Ethiopian Airlines contract, became more dramatic when the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, stated that he was unaware of any court summons from the airlines.
This is consistent with his assertion that no court can halt the launch of Nigeria Air since the project has progressed too far to be terminated.
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Sirika denied knowledge of the domestic airlines’ legal action during a gathering organized by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to thank stakeholders for their cooperation during the three-month closure of the Lagos airport domestic runway 18 left for the installation of airfield lighting.
Sirika, who stated that there was no turning back on the national carrier idea, criticized the local airlines for failing to invest in the proposed airline when they were given the first option.
The Minister stated that he spoke directly with airline operators about the necessity for them to purchase shares in the proposed national carrier, an offer that was refused.
While stating that no rule prohibits foreign investors from participating in such projects, the Minister mentioned the active participation of Julius Berger and Shell Petroleum.
The Minister took a leave of absence to react to the aviation unions’ allegations that he did not include them in his planned projects.
The Unions conducted a rally to mobilize the employees of the FAAN and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) against the Minister’s intentions to demolish their Lagos headquarters and concession four key airports throughout the country.
In response to these charges, the Minister stated that, contrary to the assertions that the unions were not included in the decision-making process, the unions and all other stakeholders were involved in multiple sessions.
Sirika, to ridicule the unions’ argument, stated that he appointed union members to various project committees even when no legislation required him to do so.
The Minister refuted the rumored plans to demolish the aviation agencies’ headquarters in Lagos airport, stating, “How I wish I could demolish them to give room for the aerotropolis project” while describing the FAAN headquarters in Lagos as unfit.
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