New Telegraph

FG: Why Buhari’s Nigeria Air won’t work as conceived

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, has explained why the suspended Nigeria Air project conceived by the administration of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari could not be continued by the present government even as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N3.23 billion for the procurement of baggage scanners for the five international airports in Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Port-Harcourt and Kano.

Speaking to newsmen after yesterday’s Council meeting chaired by President Bola Tinubu, Keyamo explained that the project was meant to create a monopoly as conceived by the Buhari administration.

According to him, the former government’s plan was to crash air fares by waiving taxes for the proposed airline. According to him, waiving taxes for Air Nigeria while not doing the same for other privately owned ones would have created a monopoly in the system and run other operators out of the market. This he said would have led to disequilibrium in the system.

According to him, the panel which investigated the Air Nigeria project discovered so many irregularities which he promised to talk about at the appropriate time.

On the procurement of the scanning machines, he said: “Since I came to office, we have been inundated with complaints of the harrowing experiences that passengers go through at the airports where they have to physically search their bags. I’m sure you all know about that and it’s been really getting under the skin of Nigerians.

“Luckily enough, the Council saw the need for this kind of equipment in order to relieve Nigerians of such experiences and it was graciously approved by Council.”

Meanwhile, the FEC has reviewed the 2025 Appropriation Bill from the initial N26 trillion initially proposed through the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) currently in the National Assembly to N27.5 trillion.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu, who briefed newsmen after the Council meeting. Bagudu equally disclosed that the dollar exchange initially pegged at N700 had been raised to N750 while the benchmark for crude had been raised from $70/barrel to $77/barrel.

The minister said the budget was raised because the revenue projection in the 2024 fiscal year has been put at N18.32 trillion due to the various reforms and economic policies put in place by the government.

He said the MTEF/FSP already with the National Assembly would be reviewed accordingly, disclosing further that details of the new appropriation bill would be released when the president presents the budget to the National Assembly in a few days’ time.

“The Federal Executive Council considered the 2024 Appropriation bill. The MTEF was earlier approved by the National Assembly. It has an exchange rate of N700 to a dollar and a crude oil benchmark of $73.

“To improve revenue, the council further reviewed the MTEF, with an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar, and a crude oil benchmark of $77. This will significantly improve revenue.”

Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, said the Fiscal Policy and Tax Reform Committee briefed the Council.

He said the Council approved a memo on $100 million financing from the African Development Bank and $15 million from the Canada-African Development Bank Climate Fund.

“Essentially, it was processed before this administration came in and, so it has been inherited. Essentially, it is concessional borrowing, around for 4.2% per annum by Abia State, through the Federal Government. So the funds are to be lent to Abia State and they are for waste management and rehabilitation of roads in Umuahia and Aba, in particular. That was approved.

“Secondly, there was financing of $1 billion, concessional financing, 25 years, eight years moratorium at about the same for 4.2% per annum, which was approved by the African Development Bank for this administration and really, it was in recognition of the macro economic measures that have been taken, the swift movement towards macro stability, restoring revenue, improving the foreign exchange situation, and so forth, that have been taken by this government. The reward, as far as the African Development Bank, a concessional financing organisation, was to provide $1 billion in general budget support.”

The Minister equally added that: “Finally, in order to keep working hard and maximizing the ability of the government to use the markets and to take advantage of different situations and improve situations, the Federal Executive Council approved a total limit of N2 trillion to be available for use by the Ministry of Finance in order to go in and out of the market and essentially to, where possible, bring down the rate of interest on the current outstanding.”

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, disclosed that the Council approved the draft national report for the fourth cycle of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review.

“After engaging critical stakeholders in the country in each of the six geopolitical zones and including the three tiers of government; the national, state and local government levels, we compiled the report which we are sending to the United Nations on human rights universal periodic review for consideration. “Before we can do that, we have to bring it to the Executive Council. So we got approval to forward the report to the United Nations.”

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