Ibekimi Oriamaja Reports
With less than a month until the launch of Nigerian Air, the Federal Government advanced reasons why Ethiopian Airlines was chosen as the preferred technical partner yesterday.
Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, disclosed this at a briefing in Abuja, saying that apart from being one of the largest and most efficient airlines in the world, Ethiopian Airline was the only airline that responded to its requests for expressions of interest and met all of the Nigerian criteria for selection.
He also stated that other airlines refused to partner with Nigeria to launch a national carrier, despite the fact that he personally went to such airlines and met with them at several air shows and international aviation forums to persuade them to do so.
Furthermore, Sirika stated that Ethiopian Airlines had demonstrated to the world that it was not only efficient and prosperous by registering over $1 billion in profit after tax, even in the aftermath of COVID-19, but had also continued to thrive despite global aviation challenges.
“We did not cede Nigeria Air to Ethiopian Airlines,” he said. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the only airline in the world to make a $1 billion profit. It is the most prosperous, efficient, and leading airline on the African continent, and it was the only airline to respond to our request for partnership to run the airline after months of advertising expressions of interest.
“Even after some interested parties asked Nigeria to extend the EoI period, which we did, none of them expressed interest.” Despite the fact that officials from the Ministry of Aviation, led by me, personally visited some of the world’s leading airlines and pleaded with them to form a partnership with Nigeria to establish the airline, only Ethiopian Airlines expressed interest.
“It has been allocated 49% of the shares, while Nigerian institutional investors will hold 45% and the federal government will hold 5%.”
“The choice of Ethiopian Airlines is good for Nigeria, and it is consistent with the African Union Agenda and spirit of taking advantage of Africa’s over 1.2 billion population.” Through our new partnership with Ethiopian Airlines, we hope to bring Africa together and lead the African aviation market.”
In addition, compared to the current situation, the partnership will lower the cost of operations and air fares for Nigerian and African air travelers.
“Contrary to popular belief, Ethiopian Airlines emerged as Nigeria Air’s preferred partner through a transparent and credible process that cannot be faulted because we want the project to succeed so that Nigeria can have an airline that does not suffer the fate of the former Nigeria Airways,” Sirika said.
The minister also stated that, in the future, all airports in the country must be built and operated in accordance with the Aviation masterplan that had been developed in order to avoid the chaotic situations that had already sprung up in many of the airports, including Lagos International Airport, where many structures have already been marked for demolition in the overall public interest, despite the cost involved.
Concerning the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Abuja, the minister stated that the Abuja Airport Masterplan had captured the entire stretch from Bill Clinton Way through Gwagwalada and that any development that did not fit into the masterplan would be demolished.
He advised individuals and entities working on development projects along that stretch of approximately 12,000 hectares of land to pause and await further information in order to avoid demolition.
When asked to name a major achievement of the Buhari administration in the aviation sector, Sirika named the strengthening of institutions in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, and global best practices and policies that delivered a safe, strong, and efficient industry as Buhari’s greatest achievement between 2016 and today.
He also warned international airlines operating in Nigeria to respect the country’s sovereignty, dignity, and honor in their operations under the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, or BASA, that they signed with the country, and not to threaten it arbitrarily due to the delay in repatriating their funds.
He stated that those airlines required Nigeria just as much as Nigerians required their services, urging them to show respect, patience, and understanding with Nigeria, which had promised to clear the backlog of accrued funds by the end of the year.
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