Reps query minister over N3.5b National Carrier fund

By Victor Oluwasegun, Abuja

The House of Representatives on Thursday queried Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika over the N3.5 billion earmarked for a National Carrier in the ministry’s 2021 budget estimates.

The House Committee on Aviation, headed by Nnolim Nnaji, had questioned the minister on the fund, which they viewed as inexplicable among the items listed in the budget estimates.

Akin Alabi (APC Oyo), who was the first to comment on the fund, said: “A lot of Nigerians are not impressed about the National Carrier project. The working capital for the National Carrier in the 2020 budget is N2.2 billion allocated. For 2021, you are asking for N1 billion.

“Can you explain what you mean by ‘working capital’ because I know it is definitely not to buy planes. So, can you explain what these billions, year-in, year-out, are meant for as regards the working capital?

“Then, secondly, for the concession of four international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, last year, N297 million was budgeted for it, and this year, you are asking for N200 million.

“What type of consultancy is this that will cost half a billion? For the National Carrier, you are still requesting for N250 million for consultancy?”

The minister said the ministry was out to establish a strong National Carrier that is commensurate with the nation’s population, market and manpower, to add value to the economy.

Sirika said the ministry had grown the number of passengers from eight million to 18 million since 2015 and that aircraft management had improved.

“This can be made much better if we have a well-established, well-structured private sector-led National Carrier.”

“The fact that the money is there in the budget does not mean it was released or utilized. Since we began this project, the amount spent on the activities of carriers so far, if I am not mistaken, is N350 million.

“By the grace of God, I want to assure this committee and indeed all Nigerians that this National Carrier will come to be and it will be for the benefit of our people,” he said.

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