The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, says the liberalisation of Nigeria’s airspace has led to an annual traffic growth of eight per cent.
The minister said the goal of the liberalisation was to make Nigeria the hub of West African sub-region.
Sirika said the Federal Government planned to make air travel the preferred mode of transportation in Nigeria.
According to him, this can be achieved, especially with a population of over 180 million and a large land mass.
Nigeria and 27 other countries that make up the African Union have in the last few years signed the single-sky treaty which requires state parties to liberalise scheduled and non-scheduled intra-Africa air transport services in line with the provisions of the Yamoussoukro Decision.
In a speech presented at the ongoing 40th assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, in Montreal, Canada, the minister said a lot of initiatives had been put in place to support the open skies policy.
Sirika said, “Nigeria has been a great supporter of liberalisation and has continued to champion the liberalisation efforts in Africa through the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision and the Single African Air Transport Market.
“I wish to call on ICAO to continue to encourage and support regional liberalisation efforts of states, as they could be used as incentives to achieving global multilateral agreement on liberalisation of market access.
“I am happy to inform you that Nigeria’s efforts on liberalisation have led to significant increase in the operations of foreign and domestic airlines and utilisation of our airports, resulting in an annual traffic growth of over eight per cent.”
The minister stated that making Nigeria a hub would require a robust industry that would be safe, secure, efficient and environmentally friendly, with modern and adequate infrastructure.
According to him, in the area of safety, Nigeria within the last three years has continued to work towards sustaining the successes achieved in the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme and the Federal Aviation Administration International Aviation Safety Assessment Category 1 Rating.
He said this had been done through the strengthening of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to keep regulating aviation safety without political interference.
“With regard to aviation security, Nigeria has continued to record significant improvements in this area with the installation of modern security equipment at our airports,” he said.
The minister said other initiatives towards achieving safety in the industry included continuous implementation of national aviation security programme and up-to-date training for aviation security personnel.
By Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi