Algeria, October 3, 2018

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Nigeria Reconsiders Plan To Launch a Flag Carrier

The Nigerian government has decided to suspend the process of launching a new national airline amid deteriorating economic conditions in the western Africa country.

Nigeria announced ambitious plans to relaunch a national carrier dubbed Nigeria Air at July’s Farnborough Air Show, where the minister of state for aviation, Hadi Sirika, unveiled the name and logo of the proposed airline. At the time, Sirika said the private sector would lead the airline’s establishment and a number of airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways, showed a keen interest in partnering with the Nigerian government in the effort.

However, Sirika stated that Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council has taken a decision to suspend the National Carrier Project in the interim. “All commitments due will be honored,” he said. “We thank the public for the support as always.”

While the minister gave no explanation for the suspension, some pundits assert that lack of investors compelled the government to suspend the national project. Sirika denies the claim. According to him, the project enjoyed a wealth of well-grounded and ready investors.

According to Sirika, the list of investors included international financial institutions such as the Afro-Exim Bank, African Development Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank, as well as Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways.

Nigerian private operators who had expressed reservations on the establishment of a new national carrier commended the federal government for suspending the launch. Trade group Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) asserted that given the tough economic conditions in the country, it would make no sense for any administration to invest a huge sum of money in an airline project that would prove neither sustainable nor profitable.

In a statement issued recently, AON executive chairman Nogie Meggison said the government took the right steps to pull the brakes on the planned carrier. AON consistently called for reconsideration of the project in light of the country's poor economic condition.

“National carrier is an obsolete 'EGO/PRIDE' idea,” said Meggison. “Business and pride don’t go together.”

“What Nigeria needs are strong private airlines that are allowed to operate in a friendly operational environment with a level playing field and policies that ensure their survival,” he added.

Nevertheless, a senior government official told AIN that the decision is not final. “They just want to stop and rethink how to go about it,” he explained.

One-time flag carrier Air Nigeria ceased operation in 2012 due to financial difficulties, leaving Africa’s largest economy without a national airline. Ten years earlier Nigeria Airways liquidated and Virgin Nigeria, a joint venture between the government of Nigeria and Virgin Atlantic, had also collapsed.

ainonline



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