*New national carrier begins operations December
The Federal Government on Wednesday unveiled the name and livery for the national carrier with the name “Nigeria Air” after series of researches and consultations with Nigerians.
But the unveiling of the name and logo of the new National carrier has attracted comments from aviation stakeholders who see the new move from different views.
The new national carrier is scheduled to begin operations by December and will replace the defunct Nigerian Airways which was liquidated in 2003 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Speaking at the unveiling at the ongoing Farnborough Airshow in London, Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the government equity of the organisation will not be more than 5 per cent.
Informing that the airline has already selected 81 routes; 40 for domestic, regional, sub-regional routes and 41 for International routes, Sirika said: “It is true that 80% of carriers in Africa are non-African.
Nigeria has not been a player for a very long time. We used to be a dominant carrier in the continent of Africa through Nigeria Airways.
Sadly, Nigeria Airways is no more. Government has been quite liberal by liberalising 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”.
Reacting to the development, Aircraft engineer and former President of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Engr. Isaac Balami, commended Senator Hadi Sirika over the development, saying that the actualisation will make domestic airlines to come together as a team.
Engr. Balami, who described the unveiling as long overdue, stated that he is also happy that the the government listened to their advice of not giving the Federal Government many stakes in the airline.
Raising hope for private domestic airlines, Balami said: “The minister promised that he does not want to destroy the local carriers.
We also know that it is not so easy for an individual to bring 10 or 20 aircraft to compete with the likes of Ethiopian airline. So it is more realistic because Federal Government took our recommendations not to give government many percentage of the shares”.
Emphasising that, if government got too many shares, there would be a lot of interference, Balami stated that with the small share the government is having, it means that one person will be at the board to represent the government.
He also said that without government having controlling shares, the public would now have a lot of confidence that there would be proper structure and corporate governance to run a proper business.
On domestic airlines, Balami said: “The future could be bright. Of course, it is bright. From what the minister said, there is hope. Again, somebody will be there in the National carrier to tell the government what the airlines are going through.
The Warri and Kaduna refinery could produce aviation fuel to about N50 to N70 per litre as against N20 per litre paid.
“The cost of airlines operations could be cut down. For example, an airline like Arik that buys about N1 billion cost of aviation fuel every month could cut it down.
Other issues such as lack of maintenance facility can be solved by the government partnering with serious organisations to maintain aircraft by way of C-checks in the country.
There will also be the possibility of a world class catering service providers available. I commend the minister for the bold step”.
The President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Mr. Illitrus Ahmadu, also said the move showed that the federal government was committed to the national carrier project.
Ahmadu said that Nigeria needed a carrier since no Nigerian airline was flying more than four to six hours.
He said, “As we speak, no airline is going to South Africa, North Africa, East Africa, not to talk of Europe and North America. There is none since Arik Air and Medview suspended their international operations”.
But the Secretary General of the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Saidu Abdul Rasaq, has said that he does not support the way government is going about the new national carrier.
Saidu said: “Nobody does not want National Carrier, it is the way they are going about it. How can you launch an airline when nothing is on ground?
Where is the base; is it going to be Abuja, Lagos or Kano. What type of aircraft are they using? If you want to manufacture, has it been ordered or will it be manufactured before December or produced down. These are the questions”.
The ANAP scribe posited that it is wrong to launch a new aircraft with billions of Naira when the old workers of old Nigerian Airways have not been paid their severance allowances.
Commenting on the issue, President, Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Gbenga Olowo, in a statement, said that there was need to know the procedures and processes being used in bringing back the new national carrier.
According to him, ART has given its recommendations to the government on the way forward since September 2015.
He said, “Nonetheless, we have passed that stage now since Transaction Advisers have been appointed. The TA should now roll out the details for implementation.
“I wonder whose decision it is on choice of aircraft types, lease/purchase aircraft acquisition, partnership, etc, without a Board and Management.”
The Daily Times recalls that the defunct Nigeria Airways, which was the country’s original national airline, operated for 45 years until 2003 while the Air Nigeria, its successor, ran from 2005 to 2012.