National carrier will cost $8bn in 10 years – Airline operators

Minister of State Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
Minister of State Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

…mixed reactions trail Nigeria Air’s suspension

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the umbrella body of indigenous carriers, has described the suspension of the Nigeria Air project by the Federal Government as a bold move.

Chairman of the AON, Capt. Nogie Meggison said the decision by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was in response to the cries of many stakeholders that government should have a rethink on the national carrier project in the light of the tough economic situation in the country.

To the airline operators, going ahead with the national carrier project would have cost the tax payers $3bn.

The AON spoke as divergent reactions continue to trail Wednesday’s suspension of the Nigeria Air project by the Federal Government.

Among those who reacted to the suspension were the Aviation Roundtable and Safety Initiative (ART) which said through its president, Elder Gbenga Olowo that it “saw the abortion coming right from conception”…

“I congratulate government on the bold move to stop now and cut its losses rather than start, embarrass the flag for a while and disappear like others in less than 10years”, Olowo said.

For the AON chairman, apart from the $3bn start-up funding requirement, it would require an annual $500m annual subsidy to keep the carrier running for the next 10 years.

“Setting up of National Carrier will cost Nigeria at least $3bn (a single B777 as of today costs about $320m.)”, he said, it would not be wise to spend that huge amount on “a venture that will for sure go down the drain within a maximum of 5 years to establish a “National Carrier”?

“Bearing also in mind that the National Carrier will need an additional cash injection of $500m subsidy per year on average for the next 10 years to keep the airline afloat while about 97% of the 200 million Nigerian masses today are grappling for the basic necessities of life; food, shelter, electricity, water, education and good roads”, Meggison added.

He reiterated that government has no business in business, saying the private sector should be provided with the right incentives to invest in the sector.

“Once again we thank the President and the FEC for this indefinite suspension of the national carrier. However, government should go back to the drawing board and engage with the private sector with transparency on how to position Nigeria as the Hub for Africa to take advantage of our God given gift of geographical location…”, he added.

An aviation analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu challenged the Minister to explain to the public why the project was suspended.

He lamented that the country has not gotten its acts together.

“Whatever has happened between him and the cabinet members that makes the project suspended or to be kept on hold must be shared with the public if truly it is a national carrier project and not government or private project”, he said.

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