Members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) who are in the country for World Aviation Forum holding in Nigeria on Tuesday and Wednesday were received on Monday by President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President who was told that Nigeria is among the West and Central Africa countries with worst airline connections in the world spoke on the determination of his administration to speed up the improvement of aviation infrastructure in the country for the benefit of the country’s economic development.
He declared his total support and commitment to work with regulatory agencies in the aviation sector to make air travel safer throughout the country.
The president, who received three awards recently won by Nigeria from ICAO, expressed delight with the high ranking accorded Nigeria in safety and security at the airports, following measures put in place to address gaps in airport security.
On the setting up of a national airline, President Buhari said he was under tremendous pressure from many patriotic Nigerians desirous of establishing one.
“I equally support a national airline for both patriotic and economic reasons. We have enough trained citizens including pilots and engineers. But Nigerians need to know how we lost the one we had before,” he said, referring to the defunct Nigeria Airways.
The delegation was led by President ICAO Council, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, included the Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and industrialization of the African Development Bank, Pierre Guislain and The Secretary General, African Commission for Civil Aviation, Iyabo Sosina and the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
Guislain told State House Correspondents after the meeting with Buhari that the West and Central Africa are the worst air connected regions in Africa and probably in the world.
According to him, ADB is keen to support financing of aviation infrastructure on the continent, hence its participation in the Aviation Forum which Nigeria is hosting for the first time.
He said “The forum has interesting topic: “The Financing of Aviation Infrastructure,” the AfDB is keen to be part of that process, we are keen to work with government, Organizations, private sector, lenders, to help finance aviation infrastructure on the continent.
“West and Central Africa are the worst connected regions in Africa and probably in the world. So there are specific challenges here that we are keen to meet and to help other African and international stakeholders meet.” he said
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika said that the purpose of the forum in Nigeria is to connect needs and sources of financing for member states.
He said “Nigeria will not be left behind. There is World Bank, Boeing, Airbus, African Development Bank, and so on and so forth. Nigeria will not seat by, we will take advantage of this opportunity to close some deals if we can or at least agree to something and sign some MOUs regarding not only the national carrier but financing of other infrastructural needs of the country.
“This is very important to us and we are grateful to ICAO for agreeing to host the forum in Nigeria. We will make sure we make, progress before we depart.”
Speaking on some of the specific achievements that qualified Nigeria to host the forum, Sirika said, “We have been working since we came, Aviation is beyond robust airport or carrier, there is a lot more. What is more important is how safe you take off from one point and land safely on the other point.
“The civil aviation center Zaria is now called Nigeria Aviation College of Technology, has become regional, center of excellence, one of the best in the world, not more than 20 of their kind around the world. This is a plus for this administration that we took it there.
“For the first time ever Nigeria has certified two of its airports, Abuja and Lagos according to the standards and the recommended practices of international civil aviation organization. For me this is a great achievement.
“This is what the country sets up in its roadmap and plans to achieve, in this regard we are doing very well and we thank all partners. I will not forget to mention NIMET which has also achieve international standards organization 9001 2015, making it the only African country that has achieved that. And you know NIMET is also providing services to sister African countries.” he said
The Secretary General, African Commission for Civil Aviation, Sosina said that the forum is an opportunity to advance the agenda of aviation in Africa as her organization is responsible for all matters of aviation on the African continent and work closely with the international civil aviation organization and other partners.
She said “The idea is for us to use aviation as the catalyst for growth. A lot of countries have done this in the past and are reaping the reward. Especially in Africa, it is interesting to note that countries like Ghana, Togo, Rwanda, Ethiopia are using aviation to develop their economy. So, I believe Nigeria should take the lead and use Aviation to galvanize its economy as well.
“And we want to take the message of connectivity to the African states to all the economic sectors of Africa because is only when we let them know what the benefits that are derivable from connectivity through the singular African air transport market and IWAF, that they will understand that if they invest as Nigeria has done because Nigeria is one of the countries that has signed the solid commitment to buy into the single African air transport market.
“By the time they realize the benefits in terms of employment, airports benefiting from it, airlines benefiting from it, airspace management benefiting from it, I believe that every sectoral minister will be putting pressure on the aviation minister to buy into it so that the economy can be accelerated for the benefits of Nigerians and all Africans as well.” she added
Aliu, the ICAO President, said he led the delegation to brief President Buhari on the significant recognition that Nigeria is receiving when it comes to aviation development and to commend him on the efforts the nation is making to improve Aviation in the country, adding that the development of civil aviation in Nigeria affects the whole region being the African regional leader.
He said Nigeria’s commitment has led to a number of recognition that is coming from the international community.
According to him, “one of that is the fact that Nigeria has recognized the Nigeria College of Aviation in Zaria as a regional training center of excellence and we are happy at the focus on infrastructural development and the efforts of World Aviation Forum, which is to foster the financing for aviation infrastructure, to assist not only Nigeria but all the African states.
“We will be adopting on the last day a declaration which we expect the assembly of heads of government to adopt, that will empower ICAO to support the process of infrastructural development in Africa effectively.”