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Buhari Orders Take over of Nigeria’s Airspace from Ghana

By Tobi Soniyi 
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the takeover of the security of the nation’s airspace over the Gulf of Guinea from Ghana, even as he directed the Ministry of Aviation to expedite action on the setting up of a new national carrier.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviattion, Mrs Binta Bello, told journalists at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, that the president had given instructions to commence the process of taking over the airspace immediately, as neighbouring countries now have the capacity to cover their own airspace.

“We have a directive by the president to start the process of securing the management of Nigerian airspace over the Gulf of Guinea, which Ghana has been maintaining since 1945 and there is a move on the ground by Togo and Republic of Benin to take over the management of their own airspace from Ghana,” she said.
She assured Nigerians and the international community that the country’s airspace was safe and had just recorded a score of over 90 per cent by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Bello spoke to journalists after aviation ministry officials took turns to brief the president on the activities of the ministry.
Nigeria’s last national carrier – Nigeria Airways Limited – which was set up in 1958, went under in 2003 before it was liquidated by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) in 2006.
Fielding questions, Bello said the president, who expressed concern over the lack of a national air carrier in the country, gave the instruction that processes should commence for the re-establishment of one.

“The president has directed the ministry to look into the possibility of having a national carrier as soon as possible,” she said.
Bello said the president was also briefed on the four state-of-the-art terminals being constructed in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu with a loan from China, which would be ready by the first quarter of 2016.
“On completion of this project, Nigeria will appreciate the work that has been put into the project,” she said, adding that “the capacity of the terminals have been expanded to contain big aircraft such as the A380 Airbus, and there will be other commercial activities such as obtains in any international airports”.

The ministry also briefed the president on the challenges domestic airlines are facing despite the federal government’s N300 billion intervention fund, which was meant to help their operations.
She said operators were hugely indebted to regulatory agencies under the aviation ministry, while some of the airlines were still struggling to maintain optimum operations.

Meanwhile, the president has expressed concern over the enormous debt in Nigeria’s aviation sector, saying that his administration will act quickly to redress the situation.
“I am concerned about the enormous debt profile in the aviation sector. The federal government has to do something quickly because safety, security and international respectability are involved here.
“Our airports are the windows through which people see our country. Anybody coming into the country will likely come through the airports.

“If we cannot secure and maintain our infrastructure, it will reflect very badly on us,” Buhari said after receiving a briefing from the ministry.
A statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the president directed the Ministry of Aviation to speed up all processes and projects relating to the safety and security of Nigeria’s air transport system.

Buhari further directed that counterpart funding for the upgrade of the international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu should be captured in the 2016 budget.
Bello was reported to have told the president that the five new international airport terminal buildings were designed to meet the best international standards.

The five international terminals, she said, could cater for 62 million passengers annually when completed in the first quarter of 2016, with Lagos moving from 7 million passengers to 25 million; Abuja moving from 5 million to 16 million; while Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu will have the capacity for 7 million passengers each.
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