By Omotilewa Quadri
The Federal Government has suspended its national carrier project – Nigeria Air – indefinitely.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made this known on Wednesday.
“I regret to announce that the Federal Executive Council has taken the tough decision to suspend the National Carrier Project in the interim. All commitments due will be honoured. We thank the public for the support as always,” Sirika wrote on his twitter handle. He didn’t give any reason for the decision.
Nigeria Air, was unveiled in July at the Farnborough International Airshow in London and operations were scheduled to begin in December.
At the unveiling, Sirika had said the airline would be managed by private investors with the federal government owning a five per cent stake in the business.
“Nigeria has unfortunately not been a serious player in Aviation for a long time. We used to be a dominant player, through Nigeria Airways, but sadly not anymore.
“The Nigerian government will not own more than 5% (maximum) of the new national carrier. The government will not be involved in running it or deciding who runs it,” he said.
The Infrastructural Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) had given zero government control as the condition for issuing the public-private partnership certificate.
Nigerians expressed mixed reactions on the suspension of the proposed national carrier.
Many believe the suspension of the controversial project is evidence that government did not get its act right in the project that has elicited much debate because of the modalities; equity structure and lack of transparency that shrouded it.
Speaking in an interview, a member of industry think tank group – Aviation Round Table Safety Initiative, Group Capt. Johm Ojikutu said the suspension of the national carrier was evidence that the promoters of the project could not get their acts right.
He said he was not surprised about the development because the Minister of State , Aviation, Hadi Sirika and other representatives of government could not provide answers to some basic questions raised about the project.
Chairman of African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) and former Secretary General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Nick Fadugba, said there are many unanswered questions in terms of the management, funding and fleet of the new airline.
Fadugba noted that the government is already the de facto owner of both Aero and Arik through the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and wondered how it would manage these airlines and at the same time establish a new national carrier.
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