The suspension of the Nigeria Air project was decided following the complexities of the processes leading to the final takeoff of the airline, multiple sources informed Daily Trust last night.
Investigations by our correspondent showed that the FG arrived at the decision after weighing options and concluded that it would be a tall dream to start the national carrier on December 20, which is exactly three months from today.
The most plausible inkling that the project would not fly at the appointed date was in the acquisition of aircraft.
Though, government had engaged in multiple talks with aircraft manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus, it was learnt that none of them gave its commitment to the project.
Also, government also felt it would not be laying a solid foundation to start a national carrier using old aircraft, which might be provided if they were to lease planes for start-up.
A top aviation chief in a chat with our correspondent last night on condition of anonymity said, “The government suspended the talks because it felt going further, the December deadline is not just realistic.
“We have only October and November, barely less than three months to the takeoff of the airline and we do not have staff, we don’t have office, we don’t have aircraft.
“I think it is just wise for the Federal Government to suspend. An airline that is supposed to start operating in December, it does not have an office, it doesn’t have a Managing Director, it doesn’t have staff, it does not have aircraft and the rest and less than three months to start.
“Even the NCAA said it would take them 90 days to give it the two most important licenses – Air Transport License (ATL) and Air Operating Certificate (AOC), I think it is difficult to implement the start-up of the airline.”
General Secretary of the Nigeria Aviation Professionals’ Association (NAPA), Comrade Rasaq Saidu said he was not surprised with the suspension, noting the project never got the approval of the President in the first place.
He said the union leaders have been vindicated.
“We told the world that this thing is fallacy. No transparency in it. There are issues on ground to address; it is not about going to Farnborough. Where will be the headquarters of the national carrier? Nobody has told us how much they sold Nigeria Airways? Where is the money? And you have not paid the retirees of Nigeria Airways”.
But our correspondent gathered from sources familiar with the matter that majority of the Federal Executive Council members weren’t comfortable with the rush in procuring the national carrier when a lot of gaps exist.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, who is the senior minister in transportation, has strangely kept mute over the national carrier. He was recently asked by journalists to comment on the procurement but declined. He has never made public statement on the project.
Another source who spoke to our correspondent hinted that the Federal Government couldn’t raise the funds needed to set up the national carrier within the short deadline it gave itself.
Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Sirika however said the decision to suspend the project was neither political nor an attempt to justify the fears of the stakeholders.