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Major Changes Underway in Aviation, Says Obasanjo

Posted by By Ndubuisi Francis on 2005/07/18 | Views: 260 |

Major Changes Underway in Aviation, Says Obasanjo


President Olusegun Oba-sanjo yesterday expressed his administration's resolve to embark on a complete restructuring of the aviation sector, saying that to jump-start the process, a comprehensive management audit is imminent.

President Olusegun Oba-sanjo yesterday expressed his administration's resolve to embark on a complete restructuring of the aviation sector, saying that to jump-start the process, a comprehensive management audit is imminent.

Obasanjo who spoke on the need to take bold and proactive steps in building and maintaining an aviation infrastructure that meet global standards of safety and industry best practices, noted that "too often have we been criticised for failing to rise to the occasion as a nation in areas where we posses comparative advantages."

In an address presented by the new Aviation Minister, Babalola Borishade at the formal launch of new national flag carrier, Virgin Nigeria at the Presidential lounge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Obasanjo said that his administration will not shy away from the challenges associated with the reforms of the aviation sector.

"We must endeavour to build and maintain an aviation infrastructure that meets global standards of safety and industry best practices. Too often have we been criticised for failing to rise to the occasion as a nation in areas where we posses comparative advantages. We therefore intend to engage in the restructuring of the entire sector with emphasis on institutions responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies.

"Government will not shy away from the challenges associated with the reforms of the Nigerian aviation sector, with the objective of improved infrastructural development and service delivery. We will work tirelessly towards creating the right environment for Foreign Direct Investment.

"We will begin in earnest to mobilise required expertise to undertake a comprehensive management audit of the aviation sector. This will commence with a functional review of the Ministry of Aviation towards sharpening its capacity for strategic policy intelligence. We will reinforce the ministry's capacity for result-oriented monitoring, evaluation and performance reporting using modern management techniques

The president noted that "we plan to evolve a ministry and agencies adequately equipped and properly staffed to respond to the magnitude of private sector activities that will establish Nigeria in the leadership position in this sector."

Obasanjo affirmed that his government would achieve this transformation through a deliberate and constructive collaboration of efforts between all the industry stakeholders, including policy makers, regulator, service providers and operators.

"We all have a common goal of achieving a rapid and successful transformation of the physical and institutional infrastructure from its present form to international standard. We believe that this joint effort will go a long way in improving our image and reinforcing the gains we made in the areas of debt relief, market liberalisation and institutional reforms", the President said.

On Virgin Nigeria, Obasanjo who spoke against the backdrop of defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, noted that state enterprises suffer from fundamental problems of defective capital structure, excessive bureaucratic control or intervention, inappropriate technology, gross incompetence and management as well as blatant corruption and crippling complacency which monopoly engenders.

These shortcomings, he said, inevitably take a heavy toll on the national economy, adding that it was therefore in the realisation of this that his administration resolved to positively redress the situation as successive ministers of aviation were charged with the task of midwifing an exclusively private sector funded flag carrier for the country.

He observed that the birth of a carrier in any nation of the world is typically a challenging and onerous task and becomes even more challenging in a kind of environment like Nigeria that is undergoing major reforms at different fronts.

Obasanjo said the launch of Virgin Nigeria was another remarkable stride in the reform effort, adding that it was therefore with a sense of fulfillment that he was flagging off "the nation's new and totally privately owned flag carrier."

"Today, we are proud beneficiaries of the birth of a world class carrier. This feat involves on the one hand, significant investment from one of the world's most enterprising and successful airlines-Virgin Atlantic Airways-and a group of top quality Nigerian institutional investors on the other. This is truly one of Nigeria's finest hour.

"It is our determination to continue to grow the private sector and sustain the momentum for wealth creation, employment generation and poverty reduction. We have now struck a happy medium of achieving these objectives of having a world class Nigerian airline flying the national flag with its operational, commercial and administrative headquarters located in Nigeria and partnered by a first class world renowned airline.

"Let me state at this juncture that the birth and floating of a flag carrier itself does not capture the overall objective of our aviation policy. This administration is determined to sustain the tempo of rapidly developing the aviation sector and capitalise on the multiplier effect on investment output and employment. It is therefore imperative that we develop new and collaborative initiatives to sustain this process", he said.

He expressed the hope that just like Singapore and Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Nigeria will use the development of hubs in Lagos and Abuja to attract a significant amount of international trade and investments from the west and central African regions to boost her earnings and strategically position the economy in the global aviation industry.

The President said that it is expected that one million passenger throughput would create about 7000 additional jobs in any market and generate an economic impact of about U$650 million.

"Therefore, the development of our airport infrastructure and the elevation of the Lagos Airport into a truly international hub is not just an economic necessity but it is central to our strategic objectives within the next 24 months. Achieving these goals will not only help our domestic airlines but also foreign carriers to develop the confidence required, to enhance our image and economic interest.

"It is not our intention to promote a national carrier that will just dominate our domestic routes. Our expectation and indeed our vision is that Virgin Nigeria will quickly establish itself as a champion on regional routes and a force in the international arena", Obasanjo said.

In his address, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Sir Richard Branson, expressed appreciation for the support of the people and government of Nigeria in the launch of Virgin Nigeria, "which, as the name suggests, is a synergy of the globally renowned Virgin brand and the resilience of the Nigerian spirit."

Branson said he was proud to say that the results of the commencement of operations by Virgin Nigeria on June 28 have started manifesting, adding that in terms of employment, for instance, about 200 Nigerians have already been engaged.

The number, he said, is expected to rise to about 1,000 in the next few months, stressing that in terms of actual flight experience, Virgin Nigeria is currently focused on achieving its goal of creating a new dawn of air travel in Nigeria which would offer passengers both value-for-money and the quality of service to rival the best international airlines.

Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recalled that it was in April last year that Obasanjo put together a presidential task force, with her as the chairman, to see to the birth of a national flag carrier.

She noted that what made it possible for Virgin Atlantic Airways to emerge as the preferred choice was the way it approached the issue of giving Nigeria a national flag carrier.

The minister said that it was the intention of the government to impact significantly on the overall economy, adding that aviation industry has become the economic mainstay of some countries, citing Ethiopia as an example.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.