National Carrier: Elusive Success Inhibiting Growth In Nigeria

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Mr. Hadi Sirika

Like others, he noted that the carrier must not be wholly owned by the Federal Government; rather the government should provide a platform for it to excel.

He explained that the formation of a national carrier for Nigeria would reduce the number of capital flights, ensures the expansion of Nigeria to several cities around the world and creates more employment for qualified professionals in the sector.

Besides, the President, Skyjet Aviation Services, Dr. Kashim Shettima wanted the government to liaise with proven professionals before coming up with another national airline for the country.

He added that the President needed to have the forensic audit on why Nigeria airlines were failing and debt ridden before venturing into the business. Besides, ex-staff of Nigeria Airways recently petitioned Alhaji Umar Faruk Umar, the Emir of Daura over the non-payment of their final severance packages of N45bn as approved by the Federal Government in May 2017.

The petitioners also accused Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance of lukewarm attitude towards the payment of the sum and wanted the Emir to intervene in order for the approved sum to be paid to them.

The petition titled, ‘Cry for your personal intervention – Nigeria Airways Terminal Emolument Alteration,’ dated October 28, 2017 and signed by Engr. Lookman Animashaun, the Chairman of Aviation Unions Grand Alliance (AUGA) said that the intervention of the Emir would save the continuous deaths of the x-workers.

The petition, however, said that the N45bn was a far cry from the recommended 78bn by the Inter-ministerial Committee of 2006.

The petition recalled that a memo with the reference number: TCA0036/S.1/T6/183, dated August 10, 2016 from Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation to President Muhammadu Buhari had requested for the approval of a calculated and verified N78,055,909,919.90 for the final payment of the terminal benefit of 5,909 pensioners of the defunct carrier.

AUGA emphasised that another memo with the reference number SH/OVP/DCOS/FMF/056 and dated May 15, 2017 from the Acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on the same issue, conveyed an approval of N45.3bn to Adeosun, which it said was a far cry from the recommended N78bn by the Inter-ministerial Committee.

The petition added: “This to the ex-workers is a clear violation of the work done by the inter-ministerial committee of 2006, a clear violation of the provision in Sec.173 (2) and (3) of the constitution and a nullification of our written affirmation to stop further demands and litigations for the smooth take-off of national carrier.

“His Royal Highness, may wish to recall that the approval to the Minister of Finance of N45bn was first given on May 15, 2017, but we are still awaiting verification and payments several months after.”

The petitioner urged the Emir to reach out to Buhari to direct the immediate payment of the approved sum, pending the restoration of the full payment as captured by Sirika’s memo, which indicated N78bn.

AUGA further described the action of Adeosun as a serious violation, which made Osinbajo to act in error by approving N45bn, rather than the initial recommended N78bn.

In an earlier letter to Sirika by Adeosun,  dated September 13, 2017 with the reference number: OHMF/PICA/FMT/28/VOL.1/94, confirmed that a total number of 5,909 of the ex-workers would benefit from the severance packages.

She, however, said that physical verification of beneficiaries would be carried out by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit and other relevant Federal Government agencies before payment is effected.

Adeosun further stated that the ex-workers would be notified on the commencement of the payment as well as the processes of the Promissory Note Programme (PNP) was completed, but, she was silent on when the payment would be effected.

It would be recalled that the ex-workers at a rally last week, accused Adeosun of not willing to effect the payment of the approved sum by the Federal Government.

The former workers also pointed out that it had lost a whopping 840 of the expected beneficiaries since 2003 that the airline was liquidated.

At the protest rally in Lagos, representatives of the former workers said that Adeosun told them that it was the National Assembly that delayed the payment of the sum to them, a situation, which prompted them to move to National Assembly for the payment of the benefits.

But, at the National Assembly, the former workers were told that their paper was not before them and sent them back to Adeosun.

Also, last Thursday, Sirika in an interview with journalists in Lagos had assured that the ex-workers would be paid before the end of the first tenure of Buhari, but like Adeosun, he was not specific.

“The only thing I can say is that the money would be paid soon. I can assure you that it would be paid before the end of the first tenure of this administration.

“For almost 10 years, no one did anything about the payment, but when we came on-board, we promised that we were going to pay and we have taken steps to ensure the payment. The workers should exercise a bit of patient with the government.”

Nigerian’s reactions

Mr. Kelvin Igho Kagbare, a maritime analyst said that there are numerous gains in reestablishing a national carrier for Nigeria by the government.

Kagbare, however, warned that there should be a  monitoring mechanism in place to monitor the activities of the major players in the project.

According to him, if countries like Ethiopia, Ghana and others could have well-managed carriers, there was no reason Nigeria could not owned one.

“It is a way of creating employment, which is a way of building capacity, it is a way of creating efficiency. Yes, the national carrier will create jobs, it will give a sense of security because if we need to move our troops, soldiers and all that, yes, though they have aircraft, but we could use the national carrier when the need arises. Apart from our own security, we need for the economy.”

Also, Mr. Casmir Azubuike, the Managing Director, Afriglobal Insurance Brokers Limited said in a telephone interview with our correspondent said that it’s a shame for a country like Nigeria not to have its own national carrier when smaller and poorest countries in the African continent pride themselves with a fleet of aircraft in the carrier.

He said that the implication of this anomaly was huge loss of income to the economy, insurance industry and promotion of poverty as against using the carrier that used to employ thousands of Nigerians to alleviate it.

“It is very shameful and unimaginable that Nigeria, which boasts as the giant of Africa does not have a national carrier. I therefore strongly lend my voice to the calls for the re-establishment of a national carrier for Nigeria.”

Alhaji Mohammed Aliyu, a former Procurement Officer with the defunct Nigeria Airways urged the citizens to eschew the attitude of government property belongs no nobody.

Welcoming the initiative, he emphasised that it was only an attitudinal change that would sustain the new initiative provided the leadership in the country put in the right attitude and political will to resuscitate the airline and make it work optimally.

Aliyu, who is the current Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria (CIPSMN) said: “Unless these attitude and notion change, we may not move an inch from where we were in the past.

“In a situation where people that are entrusted with properties belonging to the government think they are at liberty to misappropriate and use it for their personal gains and family members, the new idea may not work.”

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