Planes belonging to two local private airlines Air Peace and Aero Contractors on the tarmac of the Abuja Airport, August 2018. Private airlines have been given the go-ahead to fly European and North American routes by the government / Photo: Femi Awoniyi

Nigeria suspends relaunch of national airline

Those expecting Nigeria to float a national carrier before the end of this year have to wait a little longer. The project – Nigeria Air – has been suspended indefinitely.

Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika said the decision to put the project on hold was taken on Wednesday at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

Sirika said the decision was strategic, dismissing claims that the suspension was due to pressure from stakeholders in the aviation industry.

“The decision has nothing to do with the pressure from stakeholders because I have explained that as a government for 40 years (since 1978 to 1980) when decision was made to liberalise the sector, we saw the coming of Okada, Kabo, ABC and Bellview. We have seen their coming and their exit and right now, we have got Medview, Airpeace, Arik, we have got all of these people with permission to go international.

“We have given them Banjul, Dubai, London, South Africa and we have given them everywhere. Of course, none of them is meeting the need of Nigerian people to have a robust national carrier and that is to say that something is amiss.

“That was the intention of government to be able to set up a carrier that would deliver this service to Nigerian people.

“Prices of tickets are astronomical within international routes and certain routes in Nigeria that ought to be developed are not developed. In the past, Nigerian Airways was doing Makurdi, Sokoto, Calabar, Maiduguri with BC10 and full.

“So, with this absence, the gap is there. With all the number of airlines flying the country, this sudden growth to 20 airplanes, we have seen it in Okada, Kabo, Arik and many others but the service is not being delivered.

“So, there is no argument from stakeholders to say we should not proceed.”

On whether the decision was political, he said: “I think those saying it was politically motivated are being very unfair to Mr. President”.

The federal government planned to launch the carrier in December to make good on a promise by Muhammadu Buhari when he ran for president in 2015

Kola Tella

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