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We must concession our airports, FG tells Senate

Senate We must concession our airports, FG tells Senate

The Federal Government said yesterday it will not hesitate to concession the nation’s airports for effective and efficient service delivery.

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, noted that the concessioning process would boost revenue drive of the government, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government as social democratic in nature, has vehemently refused to sell government property as carried out by past governments.

Sirika, who spoke while presenting the agency’s projections on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for 2021 to 2023 before the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning Stakeholders on the details of the 2021and 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, and Fiscal Strategy Paper, FSP, forwarded last month by President Muhammadu Buhari, said the Aviation sector was a service-oriented one.

The committee is led by Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Lagos West.)

The Minister warned that with the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected all globally, Nigeria would up till the first quarter of 2022, continue to witness a sharp decline in the number of passengers.

He added that the aviation sector needed funds to carry out its activities, warning that if the government could not fund the Industry because of the challenge of income, it should not take the little the sector has.

Sirika said: “So we are in difficult and challenging times and we do not have solutions to it, even as advanced countries are spending huge amounts of money to support civil aviation businesses. The government, because of the challenge of funding, has not been able to respond to civil aviation requests and civil aviation funding like other countries have done.

“If the government is not able to fund us because of the challenge of income, then the government should not take the little we have. Every single agency in civil aviation is so critical that we need to fund it and because we understand the nature of this business, that was why we have now introduced the concession of our airports.

“ We have now done the outline business case, we are now going ahead for the procurement to concession this airport. The reason is simple and that is because this government, the APC administration, is social democratic in nature, it does not want to sell national assets.

‘’It wants to keep the assets with the people but we can concession them and improve them to make them better. We are very sure that when we do that, we will improve the revenue of the nation.”

When the Senate Committee asked the Aviation Minister on whether the overhead of the agencies should be mopped up to fund the national budget because of the challenging situation in the country, he said:   “I don’t think so because of the nature of the Ministry and its agencies and what is facing us.

“Take for example the COVID-19, we are the greatest hit sector. At the time we came and began to implement our agenda which is called the aviation road map, we slowly became the second-fastest-growing sector.

“Within the three years of implementation of that roadmap, we became in 2018, the second fasted growing sector of the Nigerian economy, and just before COVID-19, we became the fastest growing sector in the Nigerian economy. But unfortunately, COVID came and we shut down.

“We are not in the business of selling phones that we can still sell and get the required revenue. The revenue for yesterday is lost.  Therefore, we are hugely impacted by the COVID and with this COVID, I think until quarter four of 2021 and perhaps quarter one of 2022, we will continue to see a sharp decline in passengers and that is directly proportional to the revenue that we collect because people’s confidence has to be raised.”

‘’They have to begin to want to fly again and certain factors that encourage propensity to fly are also being eroded during this period.”

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