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Nigeria Air needs approval to take off

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By Abraham Adekunle

The new national airline is yet to take its first flight since logo launch.

The Senate has announced that Nigeria Air cannot take off without the National Assembly having a say on it. This was stated on March 30, 2023, through the Senate’s aviation committee in an interactive session with stakeholders in the industry. Senator Biodun Olujimi, chairman of the committee, reminded the stakeholders that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had given a roadmap for the ministry and promised that the Airline would be launched in December before it would go public.

However, the launch never happened. Yet, the minister suddenly announced that Nigeria Air will go up before May 29th amidst many other issues that are currently affecting the aviation industry. The committee expected the minister to be available to give an answer to these issues based on his last presentation. Senator Olujimi said that there is no way an airline will start operation without the National Assembly being able to verify what is being sold to the public is real and genuine. So far, nothing has been tendered before the National Assembly, he said.

Court injunction had stopped Nigeria Air from operating, says minister.

Sen. Olujimi also noted that the legislative chamber had it on good authority that there was a court injunction involving the Federal Government and local carriers (under the name of Airline Operators of Nigeria) preventing the ministry from going ahead with the national carrier. The minister, who was represented by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, told the Senate that the launch of the airline was disrupted by court injunctions. He recalled that the minister had presented a roadmap on how to achieve the Air Nigeria project, but that was without the hindrances posed by the court process.

The government chose the Ethiopian Airline group, which were expected to have 49 percent, the government to have five percent, and other local Investors will get 46 percent of the shares. He said that this mode was chosen because of the former Nigerian Airways that had issues. Instead of the ministry’s expectations to launch the airline, the airlines took the government to court. Meribole revealed that one of the court injunctions was to stop negotiations between the ministry and Ethiopian Airlines pending the conclusion of the matter, but that did not stop other things, such as a master agreement, obtaining an air operator’s certificate, and submitting a list of critical manpower vis-à-vis the manual operation to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Founded in 1958 after the dissolution of the West African Airways Corporation.

Previously, commonly known as Nigeria Airways, was an  airline that was founded in 1958 after the dissolution of the West African Airways Corporation (WAAC). The airline ceased operations in 2003. However, contrary to the now-proposed five percent government ownership, the government owned a majority of the country’s Airways (51 percent) until 1961 when its model was changed to 100 percent shareholding and the airline was made the country’s Flag Carrier.

Nigeria Airways had its heyday in the early 1930s when its fleet consisted of about 30 aircraft. The national airline was plagued by mismanagement, Corruption and overstaffing. At the time of its dissolution, it had total debts of $528 million (which was equivalent to about $777 million in 2021). It had a poor safety record and its operative fleet had reduced to just one aircraft and two leased aircraft. Finally, it was succeeded by Virgin Nigeria and its ground facilities were taken over by Arik Air.

Five years after logo launch, airline yet to take first flight.

Airline name as well as its logo was unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom in July 2018. But barely two months after its proposal, the Federal Government announced its suspension on September 19, 2018. Since then, every mention of Nigeria Air has elicited a recall and reliving of how the airline, though thriving at a point, went defunct. So, some have said that the carrier will eventually go the way of Nigeria Airways, possibly after not having taken any flight since inception.


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