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Senator Hadi Sirika

NIGERIA - Transport

Silver Wings

Minister of State for Aviation, Nigeria

Bio

Sen. Sirika Hadi is a former pilot and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who represents Katsina North Senatorial District under the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Sirika held the position of Vice-Chairman of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) Standing Committee of the Nigerian Senate. He became a senator in 2011. Before this he served as member of the House of Representatives 2003-2007 on the Platform of ANPP. He was also general manager of Katsina State Transport Authority from 1999-2000. He is currently the Minister for Aviation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Though Nigeria’s aviation sector is still young, it is promising, and it has potential for growth.“

How would you describe the state of Nigeria’s aviation sector today?

Though Nigeria’s aviation sector is still young, it is promising, and it has potential for growth. It has space to accommodate investors, entrepreneurs, and thinkers. It is an industry that has experienced transformation when compared to other modes of transportation. Aviation is benefiting from the public and private sectors through PPP arrangements to develop the sector. Nigerian aviation has seen some modest investment by the government in terms of infrastructure, the capacity of its people, and the general economics of the sector itself. However, this is not enough to bring out the best of the sector. When we partner with the private sector, we will be able to create business models that further expand the sector and make it worthy of investment.

What do you think is the potential for private involvement in airport renovations and ownership, and where do you see Nigeria’s airports in the near future?

There has been modest investment by the government in the development of the sector. In terms of airport terminal buildings, Nigeria had to source some funding through import-export bank loans to build or rebuild terminals at four of our airports. Entrepreneurs will find that there is huge potential for investment, especially in general aviation infrastructure, including terminal buildings, runways, communication and navigation equipment, and security systems. The entire sector is greenfield, waiting for suitable investors to come in. It is important for interested investors to act now because the doors will be closed once we have all of the investors that we can find.

Airfares in Nigeria are high compared to other emerging markets. From a regulatory and policy perspective, how might airfares fall?

The first and most important step is to create competition, which is the whole idea behind the national airline we are about to set up. This way we can leverage all the bilateral and multilateral agreements between us and other nations that are bringing in their planes. Emirates flies to Nigeria 21 times per week, and British Airways has a similar number of flights. If we create an entity that has the capacity to leverage those 21 flights and offers a better service, then that will force those airlines to bring down their fares. The second factor is that we are trying to get the government to either fund or allow the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to find investors to refine jet fuel here to help bring down costs. Jet fuel accounts for about 40% of the operating costs of an airplane, and when its cost goes up, so do ticket prices. Furthermore, the more an airline does business with Nigeria and increases traffic on a certain route, the more passengers they have and the more that airline can afford to bring down the cost of tickets.

What are your ambitions for the national airline and toward what time frame are you working?

The time frame is uncertain because it is dependent on a number of factors. This includes how quickly we are able to form partnerships and agree on the terms and conditions for potential investors. The ambition is to create an airline through private participation in Nigeria that is able to take advantage of the vacuum that exists due to the absence of a national carrier. That national airline could become a source not only of revenue and pride, but also for developing the wider pool of aviators in Nigeria. When Nigeria Airways existed, nearly 80% of aviators here were developed by it. Some were initially trained, while others were trained further or retrained by Nigeria Airways. One of our ambitions is to see over time that our new airline similarly contributes to building local skills capacity. We can look at the case study of Ethiopian Airlines, which is owned 100% by the government, but operates with no government interference into its management. That airline has now developed the capacity for engineering, flying, support services, and so forth. It has reached the point where it was viable to create its own maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) center, which is sustained by Ethiopian Airlines’ operations. They then sell the excess capacity to other airlines to leverage them to come in and partner in the country. Our ambition is to create an airline that can bring Nigeria that same level of MRO business first. If we have excess capacity to sell, Nigeria is positioned well to attract client airlines in. Nigeria is a shorter distance for airlines to bring their aircraft for MRO compared to taking them to Ethiopia, Europe, or the US. Our goals in creating a national airline are therefore to create more MRO business, more capacity building, take advantage of routes and the voluntary air services agreement, bring in revenue, and fly our flags all over the world.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

We hope to achieve the infrastructure development of the airport runways, aprons, and terminal buildings, followed by the communication and navigational capacity and facilities and subsequently by the security infrastructure. I would like to have at least four of those airports commercially and economically viable within the next year; they should be doing business and yielding results. Within the next 12 months, we will have gone far in concessioning those airports to investors. We also want to look at whether we can concession the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), either wholly or at least for some capacity. The details of that have not been examined, but it is a definite possibility. We want to take our Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and invest in human resources development by making it a center of excellence for training, initially up to about mid-level training for aviation personnel. Within 12 months, we want to kickstart the establishment of an aviation university, perhaps in Abuja. These are a few of the things in our vision. We need to of course ensure over the next 12 months that we have a new Civil Aviation Act that is proactive and in tandem with international best practice. This would remove regulatory aspects from operators and service providers to allow these matters to be wholly under the purview of the Civil Aviation Authority. Finally, we want to increase the scores we have from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). We scored a 92.6% on our last evaluation, and it is our goal to ensure that within the next 12 months we score a full 100%.

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