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Buhari administration push for Nigeria Air

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By Abiodun Okunloye

AON filed a suit to halt the deal involving the Nigeria national carrier.

In spite of opposition from the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the federal government has persisted in its efforts to establish Nigeria Air as the country’s national carrier. Since the project has already reached a significant milestone, they believe the incoming government will keep moving forward because it will provide the industry with a much-needed boost after years of stagnation due to the lack of a robust airline capable of competing with other global carriers. However, after Nigeria Airways’ liquidation, AON filed a lawsuit against the federal government for the creation of a new national carrier on November 19, 2022.

The AON implored the court to examine and interpret existing laws to determine whether or not the procedures for launching a new national carrier were in breach of the regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The AON had filed a suit in the court to halt the deal involving the country’s national carrier and to revoke the Air Transport Licence (ATL) that had already been granted to Nigeria Air through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) by the federal government.

East African carrier holds a 49% stake in the anticipated airline.

However, as part of an initiative to actualize the airline project, on February 19, 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari met with the executives of Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa. The purpose of the meeting was to advance and solidify the deal with the East African carrier, which holds a 49% stake in the anticipated airline. Since the President’s trip to Ethiopia, it can be denoted that efforts have been made to press for the incorporation of the airline before the Buhari administration ends.

According to THISDAY’s source, Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika has already begun laying the groundwork to guarantee that the next administration will carry on with the national carrier project even if it is not completed before the current administration winds down. A stakeholder in the industry who has been monitoring the development of the proposed national carrier expressed optimism that the federal government would create the airline before it handed services over to the new administration, guaranteeing that the airline would start operating immediately.

The new airline receives certification despite the petition.

Since the new airline has already gotten an Air Transport Licence (ATL), it is also expected to receive an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) before the current administration ends. He expressed his hope that the same political party would remain in power and that the incoming administration would pick up where they left off. They also affirmed that there are six projects that Buhari’s government has planned for the aviation industry and claim that Buhari has expressed interest in seeing that this particular project is completed.

Furthermore, according to a member of AON, the case in court continues to be a standoff to the project, and the airline cannot function until the litigation is concluded or overruled, despite the assurances of two people advocating to become the Minister of Aviation in the coming administration. The government and the Ministry of Aviation wanted to move the case brought against them regarding the proposed creation of the national carrier project, Nigeria Air, from Lagos to the Federal High Court – Abuja Judicial Division, but AON contended that the lawsuit must keep going to be heard in Lagos.

Existing airlines might be negatively impacted by the new airline.

Some relevant stakeholders, however, have voiced opposition to the national carrier establishment that once formed, it will further start competing with existing airlines and, naturally, as an airline with a government stake, a lot of privileges would permit it to weaken existing airlines and, eventually, bring them to extinction. Sindy Forster, a marketing and PR strategist and aviation analyst, warned that the creation of the national carrier would threaten the success of Nigerian airlines. This is because the Ministry responsible for their protection has created an airline that will compete with them.

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