President of the Aviation Round Table (ART) Dr. Gabriel Olowo has said the challenges ahead demands that re-appointed Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika should hit the ground running as there is no need wasting time basking in the euphoria of the appointment.
The new road map charted for Sirika in his second term essentially revolves around investments in key infrastructure that will assist Nigeria’s aviation sector benefit from the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) Agreement recently signed by president Buhari as a member.
The AfCFTA seeks to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.
He said the next four years will have no room for rhetoric. “In fact 2019 is already gone and 2023 is election year. He has barely 24 months to write his name in gold. He should put all his focus on measurable deliverables,” Olowo added.
“I do not envy Sirika for the arduous tasks ahead because he has said so much in the past four years and expectations are so high now” said Olowo.
According to Olowo, it is important that Sirika resurrects his planned concession of airports. The target of the exercise, Olowo said should be to deliver two to three ‘Airport companies of Nigeria’.
He said these companies should be saddled with the task of putting down the requisite funds that will give Nigeria airport modern terminal buildings with installed high technologies and functional car parks.
“The aim should be to make the Lagos, Abuja, and Kano airports a formidable West African Hub by 2025. This is doable judging from the case study of Ghana’s achievement of a similar feat within a span of four years,” Olowo said.
Also, a member of the Aviation Round Table (ART), Cat. John Ojikutu, while lauding President Buhari for re-appointing Sirika said, “not returning him to the ministry and bringing a new person could have created a downward and dangerous trend.”
In his first four years, Sirika had committed the country into some long term projects with credits secured from local and foreign firms. Ojikutu said, “it would have taken more time before the new individual (as Minister) could gather confidence to consolidate on the previous achievements or move on a new path for any progressive development.”
“It would therefore be better to consolidate on the previous achievement by fine tuning their level of development within the specified timings to next level of development,” he added.
Ojikutu said: “Nigeria should also fine tune the plans to develop its commercial aviation infrastructures otherwise, we may have no product to compete with our contemporaries in the continent and contribute to the AFCTA.
On his part, Ojikutu suggested that with the plan for airport concession, FAAN should be upgraded to a Holding Company having all the terminals concession to private companies on behalf of the Federal Government.
Ojikutu said: “Give out all the 20 federal airports for concession at once to remove the burden of providing annual budgets for their maintenance and improvement from the government except recovery intervention.
“However, the concession must be limited to passenger and cargo terminal building, aircraft aprons and parkings, car parks, toll gates, land office building and any other non-aeronautical infrastructures,” he added.