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FG inches closer to new national airline, picks ‘preferred’ partner

The Federal Government is proceeding very fast with the establishment of the much awaited national carrier as the government has selected a preferred partner as they are at the final stage of Full Business Scale (FBS). The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, is, however, keeping the preferred bidder close to his chest. While Egypt Air is partnering Ghana to set up a low cost airline and by extension a national airline for the West African country, Qatar Air is investing heavily in RwandAir by investing in their airport and the East African airline. Qatar Air is equally in talks with Air Côte d’Ivoire with plans to make the country a hub for the carrier in West Africa.

This is coming as the government’s multi-million dollar aircraft Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) is also coming on stream. The proposed independent MRO facility in Nigeria will serve the maintenance demands of airlines in West and Central Africa and also provide maintenance for national carrier and African leasing company. Sirika, who spoke on the facility, said the MRO would be structured as a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) model with government acting as both the grantor of the concession and facilitator of the project, while the private partner consortium would be responsible for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the proposed facility for an agreed con-cession period.

The establishment of aircraft maintenance facilities in Nigeria could help airlines repair their aircraft in Nigeria and save the country a whopping $117 million on aircraft offshore maintenance yearly. On the average, Nigerian airlines pay at least $2.8 million for C-Checks of aircraft while their competitors could carry out such maintenance for a mere $500, 000, adding that insurance premiums paid on aircraft is quadruple of what legacy airlines pay around the world. The C-Check is performed approximately every 20–24 months or a specific amount of actual flight hours (FH) or as defined by the manufacturer.

This maintenance check is much more extensive than a B check, requiring a large majority of the aircraft’s components to be inspected. Sirika noted that the proposed independent MRO facility in Nigeria will serve the maintenance demands of airlines in West and Central Africa and also provide maintenance for national carrier and African leasing company. Speaking on the preferred partner for the soon-to-be-established national airline, the minister stated that the establishment of a national carrier would enable Nigeria gain optimal benefits from Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASA) if the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) introduce competition, leading to competitive fares and better services as well generate employments. The minister said the project development phase has been completed with the development of the Outline Business Case (OBC) and subsequent issuance compliance certificate by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).

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