• Thursday, June 20, 2024
businessday logo


FG to resume cargo flights to Saudi Arabia

FG to resume cargo flights to Saudi Arabia

…There was no Nigeria Air, says Keyamo

The Nigerian government has announced its readiness to resume cargo flights to Saudi Arabia.

Festus Keyamo, the minister of aviation and aerospace development, disclosed this during the ministerial sectoral update briefing held in Abuja on Monday. He said this was in furtherance of the government’s plan to continue interactions with various countries on cargo flights.

“I have good news for you from Saudi Arabia. I met my counterpart in Saudi Arabia and we have agreed that we are going to resume cargo flights between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. This has been suspended for long, but now cargo flights are back.

“And we are missing within that sector; Nigeria was missing in many routes across the world. We have just started with Saudi Arabia, and we have achieved that. But I am going to continue my interaction with various countries of the world that I think we can benefit from it in terms of resumption of the cargo trade between our countries,” he said.

According to the minister, the President Tinubu-led administration has addressed the issue of trapped funds of the international airlines, which he said threatened their operations in Nigeria.

He explained that the funds were trapped here due to the lack of liquidity in the country as foreign earnings were continuously used for payment of subsidies.

“Foreign airlines were threatening to stop operating in Nigeria. We had to work closely with the CBN, we had to work closely with the minister of finance; we had to work closely with all of the ministers in the financial sector. And by our persistence and working closely with them, of course, you know we are happy to announce that we have cleared all the trapped funds of the foreign airlines.

“Also, we started active engagement with various authorities across the world and it is still ongoing as I speak with you. We insisted on our reciprocal rights, we pointed out areas in our BASA. Of course, one has yielded fruit. And of course, you know the long-standing monopoly of the UK-Nigerian route; we have at least unlocked that now.

“Under our watch, the Open Skies Agreement with the United States has come into operation. We have pushed for that. Open Skies Agreement with the United States and that means unrestricted number of flights and frequencies to the U.S., deployment of any kind of aircraft on those routes and multiple entry points.

Other plans of the ministry going forward include reviewing the concession process of major airports to ensure it is more transparent to deliver world-class infrastructure, to support and empower local operators (as we did with Air Peace) to compete with other international airlines on more international routes, and to facilitate the acquisition of aircraft under the dry lease agreement.

Speaking on the issue of Nigerian Air, Keyamo said, “It remains suspended, it was never Air Nigeria, it was Ethiopian Airlines trying to fly our flag. There was no Air Nigeria, if it was Air Nigeria why did they bring in a foreigner to fly our flag, so nobody should deceive you that it was Air Nigeria.”