Nigeria Air: Stakeholders seek identities of Foreign Strategic Investors

Major Stakeholders in the aviation industry want the Federal Government to disclose the identities of the strategic foreign investors in the Nigeria Air project.

This is coming on the heels of the recent Federal Executive Council, FEC approval of three aircraft to kick start the National Carrier.

The role of the Federal Government is to assist the start-up carrier by providing the initial capital which is between $150 million and $300 million. 

The money is expected to be released in tranches over time from the start of operations through the first few years thereafter.

Nigeria’s National carrier, named Nigeria Air is to commence operations before the end this year and preparations are in advanced stage to birth the airline.

The carrier is to be private sector driven with zero interference from government and run on a purely commercial basis.

The proposed carrier has secured its Air Transport License, ATL and the process of obtaining the Air Operator Certificate, AOC from the regulatory agency is ongoing.

According to the Minister of Aviation Senator Hadi Sirika, the federal government would hold not more than 5% in the airline; Nigerians would have  46% equity while 49% shares are reserved for strategic foreign investors.

The national carrier is expected to utilise a significant number of underused Bilateral Air Services Agreement BASA and catch in on the substantial opportunity presented by the Single African Air Transport Market, SAATM, as there  is currently no significant, viable Nigeria carrier that operate long haul services.

Speaking at the just concluded Conference of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondent in Lagos, former President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, NANTA, Mr. Bankole Bernard listed the benefits of Nigeria Air to the country and its image.

“If Nigeria Air is able to come into the market, it increase the fleet in the market, it brings convenience to the people that are travelling and not only that, we now start to showcase to the rest of the world that yes we could float national carrier. The impression is going to create is significant one and is going to at the same time change the narrative, what narrative? The negative impression they have about Nigeria that we can’t do anything right but they would see this come to fruition”.

The approval of three wet lease aircraft to commence operation by Nigeria Air has generated heated debate among stakeholders. 

Former spokesman, Nigeria Airways, Mr. Chris Aligbe sees nothing wrong with  leasing of aircraft but the President, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Mr. Alex Nwuba disagrees.

“Most startups usually start with wet leasing particularly when you are still new and all the investors have not come in. It is when the investors come in and you have all the funds that you need that you begin to look at if you are going to take wet lease or dry lease”.

“How does that solve the problem of availability of funds through the Central Bank or will the national carrier get its money through the black market to fund its operation. It is absurd, it’s essentially an absurd proposal made to a group of people that have no knowledge of what’s going on and they are acting like I said judges receiving information on which they judge without basic facts”. 

Sindy Foster and Prof. Anthony Kila say, certain issues were yet to be addressed to gain the trust of stakeholders to believe in the project.

 “The issue we have at the moment is we don’t know who are the 95% right now. For an airline to be launching and we don’t know who is the majority owners of this airline is an issue, and that should be clarified before any aircraft takes flight anywhere”.

For his part, the Director General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu explained that, the agency has no hand in the choice of aircraft to be used as it is a government policy.

As the National Carrier is soon to debut, it is expected to be world class with regional and international operations.

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