By Lawani Mikairu
The Minister of State ,Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, yesterday said the federal government interventions in Arik Air and Aero Contractors airlines saved the Nigeria aviation sector from witnessing what would have been huge job loses. According to him, the two airlines would have since stopped operations and consequently throw hundreds of Nigerians into the already congested labour market.
Powerful cabal in the Presidency was said to have decided to take advantage of President Muhammadu Buhari’s absence to hatch the plot as efforts to sell the idea of “take-over of ARIK”
Sirika made this assertion while highlighting some of the high points in the aviation sector in the last three and half years of this administration. He also said that the construction and commissioning of new terminals, acquisition of navigational aids and the recent payment of gratuities and pensions of the former national carrier, Nigeria Airways staff remained unprecedented in the annals of the aviation industry .
He said : “ Intervention to rescue Arik Air and Aero Contractors from total collapse is another milestone, which would have led to the demise of the two airlines and cause huge loss of jobs by professionals in the sector. The two airlines are today still in operation, under receivership”.
Recall the federal government , through Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, took over the management and daily running of the two airlines and appointed new management for them few years ago. The airlines are still under receivership and managed by AMCON.
On the recent payment of gratuities and pensions of the former national carrier, Nigeria Airways staff, he said: “ Just last December, this government through the approval of President Buhari paid 50 per cent of severance and retirement benefits to 5,966 staff of the former national carrier, Nigeria Airways. The beneficiaries even held a ‘thank you’ rally to appreciate President Buhari for walking the talk”.
“ You will recall that the airline was liquidated in 2003 and since its liquidation, several ministers and governments in this country refused to pay them their severance packages, which I think was bad for the system. You don’t treat your citizens bad and expect the younger ones to put in their best into the system, but the federal government ensured that they were paid part of their benefits. I can however assure you that the remaining balance would be paid as promised ,”he added.
The minister also said the sector recorded an average growth of 33 per cent on domestic operations and 13.5 per cent on international operations between January, 2017 to June, 2018. This he said is “also unprecedented in this country”.
“Also, we provided the enabling environment for domestic airlines in the country to attain certification in the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Currently five Nigerian domestic airlines have Certification, while we also designated some of them for international operations,” Sirika said.