A NEW national carrier largely driven by the private sector but with substantial public ownership will soon be set up by the Federal Government.
President Goodluck Jonathan disclosed this in Abuja yesterday at a meeting of African aviation stakeholders.
He charged the experts to chart a new path for safety and sustainable development in the sector.
The President said the government would fashion guidelines and institutional framework to promote the growth of domestic airlines and “the emergence of a national carrier driven by the core private sector with substantial public ownership.”
Represented at the ministerial conference on “Aviation safety in Africa” by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the President further asked the experts to assist Nigeria on ways to remove geriatric aircraft from its airspace as one of the first steps in tackling air disasters in the country.
He explained that his administration was working toward the construction of a Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) hangar to enable domestic airlines maintain their aircraft in the country to cut the huge expenditure in ferrying airplanes for maintenance abroad.
And even without a consensus among aviation industry regulators and experts on the link between the age of an aircraft and its safety on air, the Federal Government has resolved to peg the age limit of domestic planes at 15 years.
The clamour for a new age limit for aircraft operating on the domestic routes gained momentum after the Dana Air’s Flight 0992 crash in Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, on June 3, 2012, where all the 153 passengers and crew members on board died.
Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi, hinted yesterday that in line with the government’s renewed quest for air safety, the age limit for aircraft on the local routes would be reduced from 22 to 15.
The minister told African aviation stakeholders that once the appropriate policy was evolved, the government would no longer certify aircraft above 15 years to operate in Nigeria.
Oduah-Ogiemwonyi however said the government was not unmindful of the short-term implications of the policy, but assured the airlines that when implemented, the measure would engender the desired growth for the domestic operators.
The government said the goal was how to strengthen the carriers and enhance their viability as going concern.
Princess Oduah-Ogiemwonyi said the issue of aviation safety on the continent remains worrisome, noting that available data indicated that “Africa is at the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of ensuring safety in our airspace.”
She was however optimistic that the appalling record could be changed through collaborative and cooperative engagements of African nations and institutions.
The minister pledged that the ministry would continue to encourage domestic airlines to grow their capacities, consolidate their gains and pull resources together for the emergence of more stable, viable and profitable airlines.
Head of African Union (AU) Commission of Infrastructure and Energy, Dr. Elaim Ibrahim, expressed sadness over the continent’s poor approach to aviation safety issues, adding that the onus was on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to provide the legal frame-work for all contracting states to abide with.
The meeting was attended by the ministers of transport/aviation from 33 African countries, the AU, Airport Council International (ACI), ICAO, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Boeing and Airbus companies and other international aviation bodies.
In his remark, ICAO President, Roberto Kobe Gonzalez, urged Africa to evolve sustainable safety programmes with corresponding investment, while investors and states collaborate to tackle the challenges of air safety in the continent.