Major aviation union, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), called for a forensic audit of the project on November 16, 2023. The media reports that the present Minister of Aviation, Mr. Festus Keyamo, on assumption of office, immediately suspended the project, which was one of the flagship projects of the last administration in the aviation sector. The aviation minister recently said that President Bola Tinubu has the final say on the Nigeria Air project.
In his remarks at the 11th Quadrennial National Delegates’ Conference in Benin, Edo State, President of NUATE, Comrade Ben Nnabue said, “I wish to humbly urge the Minister of Aviation to carry out a forensic audit on the national carrier project, recast the general directions and represent them for delivery.” He said that it was important to state that the national carrier project is exceedingly vital to the growth of Nigerian aviation. The delivery should therefore not be undermined.
Union threatened protests over continuous deductions.
They demanded that the project be remodeled to be of benefit to all stakeholders and fit the needs of the industry and the nation. The union has also threatened protests over the continuous deduction of 40 percent from the revenue of the aviation agencies, saying that this is unhealthy to the industry. “At the current revenue levels vis-à-vis expenditure levels, and recognizing the high level of regulation in the industry, it is impossible for any of the agencies to sustain its operation under the present yoke of the Act,” officials of the union said.
Nnabue said that if the deductions continue, it is most certain that the agencies will collapse, which will spell a heavy crisis for the national economy. He, therefore, used the medium to appeal to President Bola Tinubu and the Hon. Minister of Finance to first stop the double deductions, then grant special waivers to the aviation agencies without which the sector will be unable to perform their statutory duties.” It is my fervent hope that this appeal will be heeded in national interest.”
National carrier was entangled in several legal issues.
It was during the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari that the national carrier was established. But as Keyamo was sworn in, he temporarily suspended the launch of the national carrier until all legal matters and issues that were “allegedly non-transparent” were solved. According to the Ethiopian Airlines CEO Ato Mesfin Tasew, the project was supposed to commence operations in October, but it had failed to take off before the end of the former aviation minister Hadi Sirika’s term. The Ethiopian airline was to retain a 49-percent stake in Nigeria Air as planned.
Initially, the proposed national carrier had been entangled in several legal issues. The carrier’s certification process was expected to resume in September 2023, but various local carriers under the umbrella of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) continue to challenge it. Also, Keyamo had said that he would work with the aviation roadmap, originally developed in 2016 by the previous administration. While on a tour of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS), the minister said that the launch of the national carrier would be put on hold until further notice.
Carrier name and logo was launched in London in 2018.
Nigeria Air had received fanfare in 2018 when the Federal Government unveiled the name and logo. The unveiling was done at the Farnborough Air Show in London and it exemplified government’s seriousness in resurrecting a national airline for the country after the former airline, Nigeria Airways, was liquidated in 2003 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo by fiat. Senator Hadi Sirika, the then minister of aviation, had engaged the management of aeroplane manufacturers Airbus in negotiations for the acquisition of the desired aircraft.