The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has said the Nigerian national airliner will become operational by the first quarter of 2022.
Sirika said this Wednesday while fielding questions from State House reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
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The minister explained that the outbreak of COVID-19 delayed the conclusion of plans as well as the take-off of the project which he said the federal government is still committed to.
He said his ministry would be submitting a fine-tuned proposal for the project to the Council in two weeks as the take-off of the national carrier was very vital to Nigeria’s economy.
Sirika said the national carrier, expected to take off initially this year, was an economic necessity for the country with the size of the population, the vantage geographical location and other natural factors.
Sirika said: “In this 2021, we will try to do all the needful and probably we intend to start operations somewhere around first quarter 2022.
“It is still in top gear, we are coming back to Council, hopefully within the next two weeks, to present the memo on the national carrier.
“We went to Council to approve the outline business case for the carrier and then the Council raised some questions and asked us to go and file the memo again and bring it back.
“So, once it comes back and the outline business case is approved by Council, then, of course, we will now go to the full business case, which is now going to the market and then establishing the national carrier.
“It was our intention to have a national carrier running in 2021, which is this year. Unfortunately due to COVID, which took the greater part of last year, since March last year, activities are almost impossible.
“Of course, for obvious reasons, we now have access to equipment, that they will come faster to us, deliveries of the aircraft will be faster, perhaps even the rates might be cheaper and so on, and so forth.