Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, arrived at Thales, the renowned France-based global air surveillance radar provider, on Saturday to carry out a comprehensive upgrade on the radar system in airports in Nigeria.
Keyamo, accompanied by his team, including aviation expert Layi Are, earlier arrived in Rouen-Ymare, Thales’ headquarters, located two hours away from the French capital, to inspect and understand the functionality of the latest radar equipment.
“I have taken my time to come all the way because I want the best equipment for my country. I want the Nigerian aviation sector to compete favourably in terms of the installation of the latest equipment. That’s why I am here to take a tour and see the latest radar equipment in town,” stated Keyamo.
Lionel DE Castellane, the Vice President of Thales in charge of the Civil Radars Segment, warmly welcomed the Minister and guided him through the inspection of facilities.
Castellane highlighted the urgent need for the upgrade of the total radar coverage of Nigerian airport facilities, especially at major airports such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu, and Port Harcourt.
He drew attention to the ongoing TRACON (Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria) project, initiated 18 years ago, emphasising the need for urgent modernization.
Castellane informed the Minister that phase 1 of the TRACON project, initially signed with the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) in 2022, is 80 percent complete and scheduled for completion by May 2024. He disclosed that discussions on financing arrangements for the second and third phases are underway.
Recognising the financial magnitude of the project, Thales has secured a loan facility of €30.6 million from Commerzbank Group, a German financial institution, with the French Guarantee Agency providing backup support.
“We’re only waiting for the Nigerian government to give us the nod to formalise the financing arrangements; even as we speak, the Commerzbank director here in France is a call away anytime; she’s ready to travel to Nigeria for the formalities,” Costallane said.
Following an extensive and insightful presentation, the Minister was presented with a beautiful radar system model as a token of appreciation for his visit.