President Umaru Yar’Adua has restated his administration’s resolve toward an enabling environment that would aid the growth of Nigerian airlines.
“Nigerian airlines will be supported to lead the aviation sector in the African continent,” Yar’Adua said in Lagos on Saturday, at the first anniversary dinner hosted by Arik Air.
The President, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Aviation, Capt. Shehu Iyal, said that Arik Air, with its modern aircraft, had become “a pride” of the entire black race.
He said that the federal government would continue to support the airline, while encouraging other airlines to also endeavour to make the nation proud.
Yar’Adua assured airline operators that nothing would be spared in the resolve to uplift the industry to its highest level of safety.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), also used the occasion to laud the airline’s strides in just one year.
AFRAA Secretary-General Christian Folly-Kossi, who conveyed the association’s position, said that Nigeria was “bouncing back in the global airline industry” with such efforts.
“With an airline Like Arik, the African continent is poised to take its place in the global market, which it was fast surrendering to the foreign airlines in the face of globalization.
“Foreign airlines now carry over 75 per cent of traffic in Africa, leaving the rest to us, and the question is, will we repossess this gold mine of ours?,” he queried.
He urged African governments to support and protect their airlines to help them survive the foreign domination.
Mr Don Memure, The Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), who also spoke, said it was gladdening that Arik was bringing back the days of brand new aircraft in the nation’s aviation industry.
He said that the federal government’s designation of the airlines on international routes was as a result of the confidence in the airline.
“As long as you comply with safety regulations, you will go places,” he said.
He said that Boeing, the aircraft manufacturing firm, was supporting Nigeria financially in the nation’s bid to scale the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) category one audit coming up soon.
The Chairman of Arik Air, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Johnson, in his remarks, said that the airline had faced a lot of challenges in the last one year, but expressed gratitude to God for keeping them sailing.
One such challenge, he said, was the investigation by the EFCC, but expressed happiness that the company was given a clean bill of health.
He, however, called for more support from government to make the airline do better, and expressed hope that the airline would fly Nigerians to all parts of the world in the next one year.
Arik began operations on Oct. 30, 2006, after buying off some of the assets of the former national carrier, Nigeria Airways, which was liquidated.
The airline, which operates on domestic and foreign routes, presently has 16 modern aircrafts in its fleet.