BY EMEKA EJERE
The Senate on Monday kicked against the plan by the federal government to give N5bn bailout to the operators of the aviation sector following the losses they suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, had at the opening of a three-day public hearing on the six executive bills meant to reorganise the civil aviation agencies in the country, made a case for bailout for the sector.
But the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, disclosed that the federal government would soon start the disbursement of the N5bn bailout it approved for the operators of the sector.
The minister said the airline operators would get N4bn while other businesses in the aviation sector would be given N1bn.
He said, “The federal government has approved N4bn as bailout for the airlines and N1bn for other businesses within the civil aviation.
“We are already putting arrangements for the disbursement in place and once we start, it would be transparently done.”
However, the Senate Committee Chairman said the N4bn would not be enough to keep the airline operators in business.
Adeyemi said the N4bn approved for the airline operators was too small, going by what was happening globally in the aviation sector.
He said, “If we really want to keep the airline operators in business, and we don’t want them to close shops and go home, the Federal Government should shore up the amount.
“If you want to keep the airlines in business and you don’t want them to start cutting corners, there is need to look at the airlines with a view to giving them substantive support.”
Responding to Adeyemi’s submissions, the minister admitted that the amount was small but added that the National Assembly would need to play a crucial role to increase the amount approved.”
Reacting to the House of Representatives’ suspension of the proposed concession of four airports by the Aviation Ministry, Sirika said the action was taken in error.
He said, “The House committee took the action because I was absent at the budget defence session.”
He said the essence of the executive bills was to address the genuine concerns of all the stakeholders in the aviation industry.