Leadership (Abuja)

4 January 2013

Nigeria: Mixed Reactions Trail Planned Purchase of 30 Planes By FG

Some prominent lawyers in Lagos on Friday expressed mixed views about the planned purchase of 30 aircraft by the Federal Government to assist domestic airline operators.

General Manager, Corporate Communications, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mr Yakubu Dati, gave a hint about government's plan in Benin on Wednesday. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Dati had said that the aircraft would be distributed to domestic airline operators, a departure from the old practice where they were given money from the Aviation Intervention Fund to shore their businesses.

Lawyers who spoke on the development included Prof. Itse Sagay and the Chairman of the Ikeja branch of the NBA, Mr Onyekachi Ubani. Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, a human rights group, also shared his views on the development.

Sagay, in his reaction, said that the purchase of the planes would enhance safety in air travel in Nigeria. He said: "what they are doing about the aviation sector is okay and it will enhance safety, comfort and regularity of air transport. "That is good, but that doesn't mean that the railways and roads should be neglected. "There is no question that little or no attention is being given to our roads and railways."

In his reaction, Ubani said there was an urgent need to make the nation's airspace safer and the purchase of the planes was in the right direction. "I think it will be a very good thing if we have functional airlines. "Buying new planes, however, would not guarantee total safety of our airspace if the regulatory agencies fail to do their jobs," he said.

The NBA chairman also noted that there must be a corresponding commitment by the government to transform the roads and rail lines across the country. He said: "Work should be done on the railway and all federal roads to ensure smooth transportation for Nigerians. "The fact remains that only a little percentage of Nigerians can afford to travel by air and so the government needs to fix the roads and make them safer."

Mumuni, on his part, faulted the planned purchase of the planes arguing that it was a contradiction of the government's privatisation policy. He said that the government should use the money to provide infrastructure that would be of benefit to majority of Nigerians.

He argued: "the reason we travel by air most of the time is because our roads are not good and the trains are not working. "There are other things that will have better impact on the lives of Nigerians instead of using our collective resources to finance private businesses."

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