Buhari Orders Return of National Carrier, Okays Clean-Up of Ogoniland (

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered the Ministry of Aviation to take rapid steps in re-establishing a new national carrier.

He also ordered the Nigerian aviation industry to take over the securing of the country’s airspace over the Gulf of Guinea from Ghana.

The president gave the directives when the permanent secretary of the Aviation ministry, Mrs. Binta Bello, led other officials of the ministry to brief him on the state of affairs of the ministry at the presidential villa, Abuja.

LEADERSHIP recalls that the Nigeria Airways, which was the country’s national carrier and established in 1958, was liquidated in 2003 due to mismanagement and inefficiency, with the airline heavily indebted.

The president said, “I am concerned about the enormous debt profile in the aviation sector. The federal government has to do something quickly because safety, security and international respectability are involved here.

“Our airports are the windows through which people see our country. Anybody coming into the country is likely to come through the airports. If we cannot secure and maintain our infrastructure, it will reflect very badly on us.”

After receiving the briefing, Buhari directed the Ministry of Aviation to speed up all processes and projects relating to the safety and security of Nigeria’s air transport system.

President Buhari further directed that counterpart funding for the upgrading of the international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu be captured in the 2016 budget.

On her part, Mrs. Bello told journalists after the meeting that Buhari had expressed concern that a country like Nigeria could not boast of a national air carrier, and directed that processes should commence for the re-establishment of one.

“The president has directed the ministry to look into the possibility of having a national carrier as soon as possible,” she said.

She said the ministry had briefed the president on the challenges domestic airlines were facing despite the federal government’s N300 billion intervention fund.

She said the airlines are hugely indebted to regulatory agencies under the Aviation ministry and that some of them were still struggling to maintain optimum operational capabilities.

Bello said the president was also briefed on the four state-of-the-art terminals being constructed with Chinese bank loan which will be ready by the first quarter of 2016.

“At the completion of this project, Nigerian will appreciate the work that has been put into the project. The capacity of the terminal has been expanded to contain big aircraft such as the A380 airbus. There will be other commercial activities such as is obtained in any international airport,” she noted.

Mrs. Bello further asserted that the president directed the ministry to start the process of taking over the airspace immediately since the neighbouring countries now had the capacity to cover their own airspace.

“We have a directive by the president to start the process of securing and managing the Nigerian airspace over the gulf of Guinea which Ghana had been maintaining since 1945, and there is a move on the ground by Togo and Republic of Benin to take over the management of their own airspace from Ghana,” she said.

She assured Nigerians and the international community that the country’s airspace was safe and had just recorded a score of over 90 per cent by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Oil Spill: PMB Approves Expeditious Clean-up Of Ogoniland

Oil spillage in Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday initiated actions that would lead to the rapid implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on the environmental restoration of Ogoniland.

Accordingly, he has approved that the official gazette establishing the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) be amended to reflect a new governance framework comprising a governing council, a board of trustees and project management.

Special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, who gave this hint in a statement, noted that Buhari’s decision to implement the long delayed clean-up of the Niger Delta area was in keeping with his avowed commitment to working for the development and well-being of all Nigerians.

He added that the actions approved by the president were based on “recommendations to him by the executive director of UNEP, the UNEP special representative for Ogoniland, permanent secretaries of the federal ministries of environment and petroleum resources, and other stakeholders.”

Adesina said President Buhari further approved that the HYPREP governing council be composed of representatives, one each from the ministry of petroleum resources, the impacted states (Rivers), ministry of environment and the United Nations system.

Buhari also approved the composition of a six-member board of trustees for the HYPREP Trust Fund which would include representatives, one each from the federal government, NNPC, international oil companies, Ogoniland and the United Nations system.

Adesina said that following a meeting held on the directive of President Buhari, “it was also agreed that a contribution deposit of $10 million will be made by stakeholders within 30 days of the appointment of members of the BoT for the Trust Fund who will be responsible for collecting and managing funds from contributors and donors.

“A new implementation template has also been evolved at the instance of President Buhari, and the environmental clean-up of Ogoniland will commence in earnest with the president’s inauguration of the HYPREP Governing Council and the BoT for the Trust Fund,” the presidential spokesman added.

Presidency Denies Spending N2.2bn On PMB’s US Trip

The presidency yesterday described as shortsighted and misleading reports in the media suggesting that President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent trip to the United States cost Nigeria the sum of N2.2 billion.

Special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, dismissed the claim as ‘mischievous mathematics.’

He said: “In point of fact, the total amount expended on the trip by the Office of the President amounted to nothing near 10 per cent of the speculated figure.”

A report and an editorial in a daily newspaper (not LEADERSHIP) had estimated President Buhari’s trip to cost N2.2 billion without any official documents backing the claim.

But in a statement he issued yesterday refuting the claim, Adesina said it was quite sad that “in this age of free-flowing information and in this era of Change, a media organisation would make itself available as a vehicle to peddle a lie of such low and ignominious quality.

“Contrary to the newspaper’s assertions, the total cost of the trip to the Nigerian taxpayer was at the most minimal, in line with the policy of this administration to cut waste and extravagance.”

He said while the president’s son, Yusuf, received neither allowances nor estacode, each of the five governors on the trip picked his own bills, and permanent secretaries who traveled as part of the delegation did so in accordance with extant rules and none of them exceeded their estacode entitlements

He added that it was also ‘shortsighted and misleading’ of the newspaper to have claimed that President Buhari’s trip to the US achieved nothing.

Faulting the report on the gains of the trip, the statement made available to LEADERSHIP explained that Buhari’s US visit was definitely very successful and beneficial to Nigeria.

“As things stand at the moment, the embargo on the sale of weapons sales to Nigeria is in the process of being removed,” he said.

“Nigerian-US relations had suffered severely over the past few years; that relationship has now been reset. The benefits of this symbiotic relationship will become more and more evident as the Buhari administration continues to tackle the challenges of corruption, security and the economy.

“Some of the more immediate benefits of the President’s trip to the US include the proposed $2.1 billion fund from the World Bank for the re-development of the northeast battered by Boko Haram; $5 billion from US investors in Nigeria’s agriculture sector; $1.5 billion investment in the Nigerian health sector, and another $5 billion investment from the US in our country’s power sector.”

“Only those rabidly determined to find faults unnecessarily will cook up falsehood in a futile effort to rake up murk where none exists,” Adesina stated, adding that “owing to the free accommodation provided by the host government, all the personal staff who accompanied the president on the trip received reduced allowances.”

We’ll Retain, Improve NYSC For National Unity – PMB

President Muhammadu Buhari declared yesterday that his administration would take all necessary actions to maintain and improve the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme as a functional vehicle for the promotion of national unity and integration.

Buhari who stated this when officials of the Ministry of Youth Development, led by the permanent secretary, Mrs. Rabi Jimeta, briefed him on the ministry’s state of affairs, said he had confidence and trust in the programme.

Noting that the objective for which the scheme was established in 1973 was still very relevant for national development now, the president said, “I firmly believe in NYSC and I think it should remain a national programme to promote integration.

“Whenever I go home to Daura, I look out for Corps members from Lagos, Aba and other parts of the country. I am always thrilled to learn that, except for the NYSC, some of them had never left their states of origin to visit other cities in the country.”

Mrs. Jimeta had informed the president that the increasing number of NYSC participants posed a challenge to the scheme due to dwindling revenue from the national budget to cater for their needs.

She told the president that the annual enrolment of corps participants had increased from 2,364 at inception in 1974 to 229,016 in 2014.

“Given the increasing number of tertiary institutions, our projection is that the number of corps participants may rise to 300,000 by year 2020,” she stated.

The director-general of the NYSC, Brigadier-General Johnson Olawumi, had also informed the president that there were plans to make the scheme voluntary and reduce the corps population to make the programme more sustainable.