Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to grant the aviation industry a special foreign exchange window to defray about $283 million stuck fund and also ease the Jet A1 scarcity rocking the sector.
Sirika, at the inauguration of the new Lagos international airport terminal, said bright prospects in the air transport sector risk being eroded without the interventions.
In an additional boost to infrastructure upgrade at the airport, the Federal and Lagos State governments have considered partnership to construct a rail line to link the domestic and international terminals.
Sirika said the new terminal, after similar inaugurations in Abuja and Port Harcourt airports in 2018, indicates government’s commitment to the aviation growth.
He said aviation is already on the path of growth, targeting a five per cent contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Sirika said access to foreign exchange and Jet A1 were some of the challenges confronting the aviation industry, lamenting that these had led to numerous setbacks.
He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to import Jet fuel in good quantity for operators in the industry.
He said: “It is pertinent to mention that we stand to gain significant benefits in restoring and maintaining connectivity within, to and fro the country. Analysis from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that the aviation sector contributes N341 billion to GDP, 160,000 local jobs and N535 billion revenue from visitors.
“However, Mr. President, the aviation business suffers from the issue of access to foreign exchange by local and foreign airlines and the ability to repatriate blocked funds. Nigeria currently holds $283 million of foreign airlines funds blocked in the country.
“I would like to humbly request the support of the Central Bank, through the directive of Mr. President, to prioritise access to forex for all carriers both local and foreign, and to work out a mechanism to clear the existing backlog urgently and prevent subsequent build up.”
Buhari, who officially opened the terminal for operations, also directed the minister to fast track the planned concession of the four major airports in the country.
He also ordered the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to source funds for immediate construction of a second runway for Abuja Airport.
He said the concessioning of the four terminals: Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Abuja, would further propel development to the sector and grow the country’s economy.
Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, lauded Buhari for prioritising infrastructure.
He noted that the projects commissioned on Tuesday would change the status of the country.(The Guardian)
•PHOTO: Hadi Sirika