Finally, the Federal Government has approved N5 billion as bailout fund to the country’s aviation sector to douse the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations.
Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, dropped this hint, on Monday, in Abuja, at the ongoing three-day public hearing to repeal and enact Acts of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and that of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
However, in a sharp reaction, the chairman, Senate committee on aviation, Senator Adeyemi Smart, has described the N4 billion bailout to the domestic carriers as the paltry sum which he said did not impress the senate urging the Federal Executive Council to review the airline’s bailout assistance.
Speaking on the N5 billion bailout fund, Sirika said N4 billion goes to the domestic airlines while the balance of N1 billion will be shared amongst the aviation agencies and other relevant aviation companies that have been badly affected by the pandemic.
The Minister stated that very soon, the funds would be distributed to the carriers even as he stressed that the aviation industry in Nigeria was too crucial to allow it to fail.
Emphasising his displeasure at the N4 billion bailout funds for the airlines, SenatorAdeyemi declared; “N4 billion is very little to solve some of the problems of the airlines who are battling to survive. We urge the government to take charge of the sector. They need to give them more and they also need to support in all ways.”
While warning that if nothing was done to assist the carriers, that the tendency for them to cut corners was very high in the midst of dwindling liquidity, Senator Adeyemi further said; “Yes, the airlines are in business but we cannot continue to look at them without offering them assistance. I am not comparing Nigeria with the United States, but I think we can do better than the N4 billion we are assisting them with.”
Sirika in his response to the complaints of Senator Smart noted the plea of the National Assembly for more financial support to be given to the airlines but pleaded with the lawmakers to grant approval for funds to struggling airlines.
It would be recalled that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged the government to implement specific financial relief measures for aviation to ensure that, the sector will be capable of driving the recovery.
Prior to the crisis, aviation contributed $1.7 billion to Nigeria’s GDP and supported 241,000 jobs. IATA estimates that the COVID-19 crisis puts 124,000 Nigerian jobs at risk and some $900 million of the country’s GDP.
FG announces N5bn bailout to aviation sector
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