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National carrier project gathers momentum?



National carrier project gathers momentum?

The national carrier may afterall come to fruition December this year, signposting a new phase in Nigeria’s aviation industry. WOLE SHADARE writes



Green light


There are indications that the proposed national carrier may after all become a reality going by flurry of activities in the past few weeks.


Many had already lost hope that the much talked about national airline may be a mirage going by lip service paid to the establishment of a project that many are divided over.


But there seem to be a ray of hope that the government is actually desirous of an airline that would bring back the glory days of aviation through the defunct Nigeria Airways. Information filtered in last week that the Federal Government of Nigeria has hinted the date for the commencement of the National Carrier project to be December 24, 2018.


Two people familiar with the move said the desire was mentioned during a “National Carrier Brainstorming” meeting chaired by Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika in Abuja. At the end of the meeting, “the aviation minister inaugurated a 9-man fast track task force to ensure the sacrosanct of the take-off set date,” said one of the sources.


The ‘wise men’


“The committee will be chaired by Captain Fola Akinkuotu, the Managing Director of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.


Other members are: Capt. Muhtar Usman, Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority; Capt. Abdulsalami Mohammed, Rector, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology; Engr. Akin Olateru, Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau; Capt. Tilmann Gabriel ( a representative of National Carrier Transaction Adviser); Layi Are (a representative of Transaction Adviser for MRO & Aviation Leasing Company); Engr. Chidi Izuwah, the Acting Director General for Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC); Ben Tukur, Technical Assistant to the Minister of State for Aviation, will serve as the secretary and another industry stakeholder,” he explained.


“The minister, after the inauguration of the committee gave a charge that they should do everything that has to be done legally and procedurally to make the project a success”.


It was also gathered, “ the government want the project fast tracked and done well with adequate support for the Transaction Advisers.”


It was also learned that the Transaction Adviser showed from their capability, that the project could be achieved earlier than the government set date, but the minister gave December 24 in order to give room for more time to get everything done meticulously.


The National Carrier Transaction Adviser, made up of a consortium, include Airline Management Group Ltd, Avia Solutions Ltd and Tianerro FZE.


The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika presented the Transaction Advisers to the gathering of the country’s aviation stakeholders during the 4th Aviation Stakeholders Forum on 29th March, 2018 in Abuja.


The big question


Not a few had asked if Nigeria pull this through considering how government initially started with a project that came with so much hope.


The hope later led to despair and later uncertainty, which gave rise eventually to disappointment. Many are very desirous of a national airline for Nigeria but the slow speed of actualising the dream began to dampen the spirit of many who thought by now, the issue of a national carrier would have been put to rest.


Penultimate week, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika rekindled hope that in the next couple of months, “we should be closer to having a national airline.” This assurance then did not help to rekindle hope, but activities finally peaked giving rise to a renewed hope.


The Lufthansa saga seriously looked as if the entire project had collapsed before it even took off, leading to insinuations in some quarters that the government was not serious about one of the key things it promised to do in 2015.


The Lufthansa connection Lufthansa Consortium’s contract that was expected to mid-wife a national carrier was terminated with the government explaining that the decision was taken in the best interest of the nation.



The minister alleged that the firm changed the term of contract it had with the government by demanding that aside asking for 75 per cent of N341 million upfront payments, which he said was not in line with Nigeria’s procurement law, also alleged that the firm wanted the money to be converted to Euros, which was also not acceptable to them.


His words, “What transpired at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, which I explained very clearly is that we substituted Lufthansa Consulting as part of the consortium to provide transaction advisory services for the establishment of a national carrier. “The reason is very simple and clear.


We thought that Lufthansa Consortium is an arm of Lufthansa Airline Group and this may compromise the process. They might be interested party latter in the day of this procurement and this may compromise the system. We want it to be transparent, as fair and equitable as it should be.


Sad tale


Many flag carriers have collapsed over the years. Many do not know where to turn.


While the lamentation continues, foreign airlines have perfectly filled the void and providing seamless air travel needs to very mobile populace. While airline collapses have become commonplace with Aero and Arik going under during the past few years, the loss of flag carriers is a frequent phenomenon.


For sure, we‘ve seen high profile bankruptcies; Arik and Aero immediately come to mind. But in both cases, the government worked hard to get them rescued.


Both Rwanda and Zimbabwe are good examples of why small countries need their own airlines. Big nation such as Nigeria needs it more than ever before.

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