Nigeria Air, co-owned with Ethiopia airlines moves in
The federal government of Nigeria has unveiled the controversial national carrier, Nigeria Air, less than three days before the inauguration of a new administration.
The national carrier aircraft was unveiled by the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport premises in Abuja on Friday.
“When we came in 2015, we knew what to do. We commissioned consultants to give us a brief of what the sector would be…,” the minister said while addressing journalists at the airport.
He said the airline was an investment between entrepreneurs in Nigeria and an Ethiopian consortium.
The minister had hinted in March that the national carrier would commence operation before the swearing-in of a new administration on 29 May.
“Operation of local and international flights will commence soon. Before the end of this administration, before May 29, we will fly,” Mr Sirika said.
Nigeria Air, the nation’s proposed national carrier, was unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England on 18 July 2018.
The project was suspended two months after being announced as critics raised concerns over its relevance and sustainability.
The proposed airline was expected to gulp $8.8 million in preliminary cost and $300 million as take-off cost.
The national carrier idea was raised many years after Nigeria’s defunct carrier, Nigeria Airways, collapsed due to corruption and poor management.
Last July, the Federal Executive Council approved the leasing of three aircraft to enable the airline to commence operations.
In September last year, Mr Sirika said at a press briefing in Abuja that Ethiopian Airlines emerged as a core investor in Nigeria Air with a 49 per cent shareholding. This led to the suit filed by local airline operators, who say they can manage Nigerian Air better than a foreign airline.
The Senior Special Assistant, Media, and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, last week said that the Nigeria Air would be a game-changer and appreciated by Nigerians.
While praising Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika for his doggedness in ensuring the airline becomes a reality, he said many Nigerians will benefit from the project.
“The minister has been bashed unfairly all over the place. He has been doing this, all of the commitment to put this airline in place but simply obstacles have been put on his part every inch of the way, until just a week or two ago when the thing was cleared for its resumption,” he said.
“I don’t blame him. He wants to make history, the minister wants to push for a new airline. So, it is honourable that he wants to kickstart it Friday, which is 24 hours from now. It would be to the relief of Nigerians, certainly, it is something that is going to be a game-changer, especially for international travel.”
Mr Garba admitted that the project had been impeded by several challenges.
“The Nigerian process has been up for a very long time. In all eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari, there is no policy memo on anything that has done the zigzag that Nigerian Air has done,” the presidential aide said.
“At least seven times, it came before the Federal Executive Council before finally it was let go.
“Just when everything was set and for the airline to start, domestic Nigerian airline operators went to court and they got an injunction that says that Nigeria Air must not fly. This held up everything until barely a week or two ago.”
According to him, the collaboration with Ethiopian Airways is in the best interest of the country.
He said, “This is entirely different because past attempts have been made to use resources from the treasury to run a business.
“Government is simply a bad manager of businesses. We would continue to fail so long as these things are run by the government.
“This realization is simply the fact that the government of Nigeria would be a minority shareholder in this enterprise, it is going to be essentially business run and that would mean that it would succeed,” he said.