By AMECHI OGBONNA
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has warned the Federal Government against yielding to the temptation of floating another national airline, stressing that such a venture was bound to fail like in previous attempts.
Speaking at the recent Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja, Sanusi noted that there was no sense in embarking on a capital intensive project like aviation at a time global market sentiments were all geared towards a private sector led economic system. Commenting against the backdrop of recent proposal by the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, urging the Jonathan administration to consider setting up a new national carrier albeit in partnership with the private sector, the CBN boss stated that as banker to the government, the Central Bank would not support the idea of floating a government owned national airline.
“We do not need a new airline for Nigeria at this moment of privatization, but what we at the CBN will continue to do is to advice the Minister of Aviation as well as other ministers in the Federal Executive Council but it is up to them to take our advise or not,” he said. He stated that part of the initiative was to intervent in the sectors occasionally through injection of refinancing facilities to enable private sector operators who are trapped with loan service obligation to be able to refinance them.
Sanusi also pointed out that the intervention funds from the CBN was not meant to acquire need aircraft but to help operators battling with loans service obligations to service the facilities and be able also to get some working capital capacity to conduct their day to day operations.
According to him, airline industry globally is a highly leveraged, high funding, thin margin industry with technically sophisticated operation which no serious government would want to contend with. Sanusi explained that the funding requirements of that sector may not be addressed by 5 year credit facilities but one that extends to as long as 25 to 30 years and enables them to run their business without much pressure from banks. He also pointed out that it would not be economically expedient for a government that is still battling to fix decayed infrastructure to cough out the staggering amount needed to set up a new national carrier.