By Uche Mbah
After fifteen years in limbo, Federal Government resurrects Nigeria Airways with a different name: Nigeria Air. Incidentally, the unveiling of the logo of the new airline was done in London, the international capital of Nigeria. Most policy pronouncements of Nigeria in recent times are usually done in London.
The unveiling of the logo as done during the ongoing international Airshow in Farnborough London, Minister of state for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was elated with the prospect of having a new national Carrier which, according to him, will only concede 5% of the shares to the Federal government, being a privately driven venture. He, however, refused to name the investors, but insider information indicates that it may have been hijacked by current presidential loyalists and Lackeys.
Nigeria Airways was liquidated under former President Obasanjo, and its vast assets were sold to Arik Air, an Airline he is believed to have personal shares with a former South-south governor.
The Airline is expected to take off by December 2018.
Already many aircraft are said to have been bought from the US on wet lease, from a so called retired aircraft pool. Using private consultants, government has been planning the Inaugural flight to an Asia Country.
Although the government insists it is only going to own 5%, yet it is pumping $310m for the take off of the project as its takeoff share . It is hard to believe that $310million is five percent of the total share take off. This has heightened the speculations that the presidency has a lot to do with being part of the investors, as a retirement investment.
According to Sirika, “Government has been quite liberal by liberalizing the sector at the tail end of 70s and early 80s to allow private sector to participate in creating a robust airlines that would serve the market, and that would transform the economy of that region. Unfortunately, the stories of the initiatives which were well recognized and respected, has not yielded the desired goals of achieving a top class, competitive, efficient and vibrant carriers.”
Nigeria has been facing a lopsided Bilateral Air Service Agreement, BASA, skewed against it because they could not fill their Quota.
“With the government of Nigeria, it is extremely important that the service is provided, Sirika continued,” The reason being, there is a service that is needed and also, it will offer employment opportunities that will kick start and ginger and double up and rush the growth of the economy of Nigeria. So we take it as an extremely very important venture. And that is why government thought it has the responsibility upon itself much more than a social in trying to create a new National Carrier that will be typical and private sector led and driven through Public Private Partnership (PPP) arraignment”.
“We have selected 81 of those routes; 40 for domestic, regional and sub-regional and of course International routes, about 41. This airline because it is a PPP, The investors put in their money and strategic partners would decide who runs the airline. This airline is a business and not a social service.
“It is not intended to kill any airline in Nigeria but complement it and promote it. It must be done in a right way so that it would be here to stay. Government will not hold shares beyond 5 per cent at the top most. This airline is having the backing of the government. Government will come up with funding according to the Business Case that has been delivered to government.
“We will engage the youth of Nigeria because we do believe in the “Not Too Young To Run”. We engage them in the campaign to name this airline. We engage 400,000 Nigerian youth to arrive at the name of the airline. All of their ideas were taken and digested and we came up with what is an average. The airline will take into cognizance the multicultural nature of nation through its diversity. We want to use this airline to make a statement that Yes can we do it. We want to use it to promote our culture and tradition.” Sirika said.
“There would not be a single government control of this airline. Not in management, not in human management. People who invest would determine that. We have a policy where employment goes to Nigerians fist before it goes outside” The Minister said “We will fast track our International Air Transport Association (IATA) membership and go through IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) Audit soon. We are not afraid to go through this because we have demonstrated that Nigeria is a responsible state”.
Worries are the Airline will start building infrastructures anew, and this Magazine has it on good authority that they are already looking for a befitting property in the high brow area of Government Reservation Area, Ikeja.