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Nigeria’ll increase investments in aviation safety, security, Buhari tells ICAO

As Sirika justifies aviation fuel scarcity

ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday assured the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, that Nigeria will deploy more investments to provide infrastructure and facilities for safe, secure, environmentally friendly and sustainable civil aviation.The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, also gave reasons for the current aviation fuel scarcity in the country, saying the situation was not peculiar to Nigeria.

Speaking when he received in audience the Secretary General of ICAO, Mr Juan Carlos Salazar, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari said Nigeria would support the ideals and aspirations of ICAO and achievement of its strategic objectives, in collaboration with other member states of the organization.

He said:  “Nigeria became a member of ICAO Council in 1962, and since then, it has continued to make valuable contributions to the Council’s work and its activities.

“It is pertinent to also mention that Nigeria has been playing a key role in supporting the implementation of ICAO Policies and Programmes internationally, and particularly in the African region.

“To this end, Nigeria has ratified international air law instruments like the Montreal Protocol and amendments to some articles of the Chicago Convention. Nigeria is also championing the cause of Aviation safety, security and facilitation in Africa.”

President Buhari told the ICAO delegation that he has approved the establishment of Aerospace University in Abuja to cater for research and development as well as provide manpower for the industry.

“In this regard, Nigeria is looking forward to the continued support of ICAO under its ‘No Country Left Behind’ initiative,” he added.

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The President also noted that the Nigerian government has established independent agencies to enhance aviation safety and security, while ensuring effective and efficient provision and management of infrastructure in all aspects of the industry.

“These include the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority for safety and economic oversight of the industry; the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency  for air traffic services; the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria for management of government-owned airports; the Nigerian Meteorological Agency for meteorological services; and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, the nation’s main aviation training organization, established in 1964 in collaboration with ICAO and the United Nations Development Programme.

“Nigeria is fully committed to working with other states and supports the implementation of the Global Aviation Safety Plan, the Global Air Navigation Plan, as well as the Global Aviation Security Plan,’’ the President said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Abubakar Sirika, commended President Buhari for giant strides taken under his administration in the areas of aviation safety, security and development.

“Our profile improved significantly during your tenure, Mr President. Passengers rose from eight million to 18 million in four years, while security and safety also went up significantly,” he said.

Earlier in his speech, the ICAO scribe lauded what he called “the leadership role Nigeria plays in civil aviation in Africa,” saying the country’s record remained one of the most impressive in the world.

“The number of airports has doubled, passengers are growing in spite of COVID-19. The record of safety is the most important performance indicator of all. I recognize the excellent work by your government to maintain high standards, in line with international best practices,” Salazar said.

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While noting that it was important to maintain the track record, the ICAO Secretary General said there was no end line in civil aviation, saying “we keep chasing targets that go on and on.”

He urged President Buhari to sustain the support being given to the sector, to attract further investment, tourism, and continued growth.

Briefing State House correspondents after the visit, the Aviation Minister said aviation fuel scarcity with its attendant high cost was not peculiar to Nigeria.

Sirika also gave reasons for the high cost of the product globally and what the government was doing to arrest the spiral in the price of the commodity.

He said:  : “The scarcity and high cost of Jet-A1 in civil aviation is not peculiar to Nigeria; it is a global phenomenon driven by many factors.

“Some of them include even low capacity to refine the product. It’s also high demand around the world, it has  increased activity and increased number of airplanes out there and users of this jet-A1, plus also the Ukraine crisis and many more. 

”It’s a time crude itself is so expensive today, it is in the hundreds of dollars per barrel and only the high cost of Jet A1 product in Nigeria. Also the peculiarity of the fact that we’re not refining the product, so to speak. 

“I did addressed the press a couple of days ago, saying that, by the grace of God, perhaps once the Dangote refinery is on or if the government fixes the Port Harcourt refinery, which is now ongoing, we will begin to refine this product and sell it. 

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“As a stopgap measure, there’s an agreement that the Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, would nominate either from  themselves or from other major oil marketers to be given the opportunity to import this product. 

”Then also get the necessary foreign exchange for that purpose. And that will now increase more supply and perhaps drive down the cost. 

“So this is not unique to Nigeria.  And unfortunately, we are going through this phase, but civilization from time always survives challenges. They come, unfortunately, but then you see civil aviation graphs keeps going up. 

”We hope this is a temporary thing around the world and we hope that Jet-A1 will be very available everywhere and at very good price.”