There is crying need for the incoming administration to follow up on Minister of Aviation Osita Chidoka’s roadmap for the aviation sector. The roadmap comes with a long-term investment of $5 billion in the short term for appreciable growth in passenger traffic to enable Nigeria join the modern aviation world. Unfolding the action plan while speaking on the topic, “Economic Stimulus: For Aviation Outlook and Strategy”, at a recent Aviation Executives Business Forum organised by the Ministry of Aviation, Chidoka stressed that to achieve the projected 25 million passenger traffic, Nigeria needs to invest a whopping $7 billion as part of the medium-term plan. According to the Aviation Minister, with such investment on a sustainable basis, Nigeria would require not less than $50 billion in investment to achieve 110 million passengers in the industry in the long term.
We are glad to note that the country’s air passenger traffic for inbound and outbound destinations hit 21 million in 2014, a 20 percent growth over the figure for preceding year. We are also happy that the growth was enhanced by the Transformation Agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan Administration which ensured robust economic activities, the rebasing of the nation’s economy, which made Nigeria Africa’s largest economy and the choice of the country as investment destination. A further breakdown of the figure showed that in 2014, an estimated 14 million travellers were recorded on domestic destinations, while seven million made it through international destinations.
Explaining that the roadmap would involve not only stimulating increased direct investment in the aviation industry as well as the need to facilitate local direct investment into the sector, the Aviation Minister stressed that the targets could only be achieved through a deliberate effort to reduce and manage industry risks, while expanding credit and aviation financing tailored towards sector requirements. While listing other action plans by the Aviation Ministry to include stimulating equity investment through attractive and competitive incentives across the aviation value chain, he specifically harped on the need to facilitate government’s intervention and guarantees to enhance industry performance.
He however maintained that a sustainable aviation industry may not be achieved in the country without first creating a robust regional hub and aviation city. These, he said, would drive commercialisation, stimulate the volume of aviation finance required to drive the next level of industry growth and review intervention fund models and as well facilitate a more robust sector financing framework.
This action plan is coming at a time efforts are geared toward repositioning the country and make it a global brand. We appreciate the sincere desire of the Aviation Minister to reposition the nation’s aviation sector. We have no doubt about his ability to drive this vision to reality, especially given his outstanding performance at the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) where he served before his current appointment. Chidoka would no doubt be building on the achievements recorded by her predecessor at the Aviation Ministry, Princess Stella Oduah, whose regime facilitated the remodeling of the nation’s airports. Nobody really expects anything less from this young administrator whom many see as an outstanding personality given his past records.
We hope that Chidoka’s drive in the aviation sector is not undermined as we note with regret that despite the efforts of the Federal Government to reposition the shipping/maritime sector to enable it achieve its full potential by empowering indigenous operators, the N50 billion Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) is still lying un-accessed in the vaults of the banks almost 10 years after. This is as the nation’s inland waterways remain what a House of Representatives investigative panel described as “grossly a wasteland” despite the good intentions of the Federal Government. It is also sad that the local shipping operators that the CVFF is meant to assist continue to suffer with the alarm recently raised by the Nigerian Ship Owners Association (NISA) that 90 percent of its 78 registered ship owners are on the brink of extinction as they are currently being overwhelmed by debts and their situation compounded by their inability to access the CVFF.
We also note another sad experience in the textile sector. While realising the need to bail out the sector from its comatose position through the N100b Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) Revival Fund, the Federal Government had gone ahead to disburse the Fund through the Bank of Industry (BoI). But rather than embrace the gesture with open hands, only a few textile manufacturers signified interest in the facility. And despite the generous interest rate of six per cent and a repayment period of five years that the facility offers, it is regrettable to note that only about 20 textile firms have so far accessed the loan. We want to believe that the situation with the shipping and textile sectors would not repeat itself with the envisaged fund for the Aviation sector. The Minister has already kick-started the much-desired sanitation exercise in the sector and his moves on assumption of office surely have our support. We can only encourage the incoming General Muhammadu Buhari regime to ensure that the roadmap is addressed because the aviation industry really needs a boost