Campaign against Nigeria Air calculated, self-serving — Experts

Industry experts have described the flurry of backlash that greeted the unveiling of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, by the previous administration, led by the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, as deliberate and self-serving.

Recall that the Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, frowned against the move to establish a national carrier by taking the Federal Ministry of Aviation to court and obtaining an injunction to stop the process leading to the successful takeoff of the airline.

Part of the reasons the Airline Operators highlighted is that the ex-Minister of Aviation did not follow due process in the Private, Public Partnership (PPP) arrangement in Nigeria, but circumvented the process through abridgment that was signed by the President of Nigeria.

The AON had also written to the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the Nigeria Air process. The AON in a letter to the then President wrote: “As your excellency is well aware, the administration will hand over on Monday, May 29, 2023 but the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, is planning to circumvent the court orders on Friday 26th May 2023 being the last working day of this administration and possibly to cover up the various infractions of Nigerian laws, amongst others.”

An industry analyst who spoke to our correspondent on the basis of anonymity alleged that the move against a national carrier was an orchestrated grand plan by some airline operators to run a campaign against the ex-Minister over his tenacity to float the national carrier.

“These same individuals are also bent on dragging the image of the Minister into the mud. This is despite the huge patronage the minister accorded local airlines while he was in office”, he stated.

He added: “The Minister protected local airlines and worked hard for them to get incentives, which include waivers in duties and VAT on aircraft and spares. He also ensured they got COVID palliative even when federal government agencies under the Ministry of Aviation didn’t get as much support from the government.”

Meanwhile, a cross-section of air passengers has expressed excitement over the planned national carrier as they hope Nigeria Air will help reduce air tickets that have spiked.

Some passengers who spoke to our correspondent at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja expressed optimism that Nigeria Air with Ethiopian Airlines as a technical partner will run an efficient and cost-effective airline business.

Johnson Usen told our correspondent that based on ET’s long years of operations, they would deploy the right equipment for Nigeria Air, run cost-effective operations, and charge relatively lower fares.”

Another passenger, Hassan Mohamed said the local airlines might be afraid ET will crash the cost of local tickets thus, they don’t want that to happen.

“These local airlines want to continue to milk us. This is why they don’t want a national carrier. We want the national carrier to help us end the suffocation by local airlines. Nigeria Air will liberate the industry”, he submitted.