Nigeria’s aviation sector is recovering quickly from the lockdowns occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. One of the men to whom this recovery is attributable to is the country’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika. Himself a pilot, his keen insight into issues plaguing the sector is fueling his passion to make things better and any unbiased observer will agree that he is one of the shining lights in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The Katsina-born former Senator is certainly no pushover and despite being in charge of the Ministry of Aviation, his patriotic fervor sometimes make him look like he could easily handle Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry as well and achieve great results. In the instances where foreign airlines and countries have been unfair to Nigerians, he has stood up for Nigeria and had the issues resolved in our favour. A notable case in point is his decision to apply the principle of reciprocity to countries and airlines as international travel resumed after the COVID-19 lockdowns were being eased off globally. Airlines looking to resume their operations in the lucrative Nigerian market but whose home countries still had restrictions in place barring Nigerians from entering their territories were made to have a change of heart.
Hadi Sirika’s tough stance attracted commendation from Nigerians all over the world and as Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyeama correctly noted, “Nigerians all over the world are walking tall with enormous pride since the news broke out. You have, by this action, brought so much respect to our people and nation. You are causing a positive revolution in the aviation world. This is the beginning of the end of the stigmatization of Nigeria and everything Nigerian.” This sentiment was echoed even by non-Nigerians and will serve as a template for African airlines in a world where they often get the short end of the stick.
Hadi Sirika has shone his brilliance in other areas of Nigeria’s aviation sector including by facilitating the waiver of customs duty on aircraft and spares and pushing for the unification of charges paid by domestic airlines, many of whom are struggling to compete. In the absence of a national carrier which the Honourable Minister has promised will be fully operational before 2023, he directed that only Nigerian airlines should be engaged in the Federal Government’s evacuation of Nigerian citizens stranded abroad. Little wonder the airlines and private operators are smiling again despite the other challenges they face.
It’s not only the Nigerian airlines that are being positively impacted by Hadi Sirika. To boost civil aviation, at his behest 10 new airports will be constructed across Nigeria and this will benefit Nigerians whose cities were left out of the spread of airports across the country. These new airports represent a 50% increase to the number of existing airports and the cities chosen this time around were done so strategically. For instance, Lokoja has been chosen as it is positioned as an alternate for Abuja. Lafia, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Damaturu in Yobe and Anambra are also among the beneficiaries of Sirika’s strategic wisdom.
In addition to the massive rehabilitation and upgrade of the existing airports across the country, Nigerians are being positively impacted by having Hadi Sirika as Aviation Minister. In a clime that it is unfortunately the norm to have square pegs in round holes, this pilot ably piloting Nigeria’s aviation sector to enviable heights is a welcome development. Men like him deserve to have a place in the uppermost echelons of Nigeria’s leadership post 2023.