Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika yesterday said the proposed national carrier would become a reality in the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari administration, saying it would be the biggest in Africa.
Speaking with newsmen at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) Lagos, the minister defended the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) which Nigeria recently signed, saying the country with a population of 173million people and the hugest market in Africa would be the greatest beneficiary.
He also took a swipe at airline operators who have spoken against the open skies initiative, saying they have refused to grow even as he said most of them were owing aviation agencies.
Sirika noted that the need to take full advantage of the SAATM informed the decision of the Federal Government to establish a private sector-driven national carrier.
“Where are we? I think in the next couple of months, one month to two months maximum, by March we should be able to have our outline business base for this transaction.
He disclosed that Lufthansa Consortium was dropped as transaction advisor because of its affiliation with Lufthansa Airline even as they gave a condition not to pay tax which he said was against Nigerian law.
He said: “At the time Nigeria was pushing for this SAATM, you and I know we had Nigeria Airways and we thought we would take advantage of it. Now we don’t and our airlines for one reason or another have not grown to that capacity and this is why the government felt that we should set in motion to create a robust carrier that would take advantage of this SAATM for the benefit of the Nigerian people.
“Nigeria is among the first 11 countries that went to Yamousoukro and took a decision to liberalize the sector and open the sky for Africa and this means growth. This means development. This means more jobs. This means more security and this means more connectivity. This means more passenger experience and comfort.