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Aviation Headline News Special Report

Nigeria Air: Stakeholders oppose Ethiopian Airlines investment

Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and other stakeholders in the aviation industry have continued to oppose the yet to take off national carrier, ‘Nigeria Air’ especially with the choice of Ethiopian Airlines as strategic investor.

They are of the belief that, the National carrier is owned by certain individuals using the federal government as a face.

Worried about this development, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation invited the Minister of Aviation Senator Hadi Sirika last week to answer some vexed issues regarding the new carrier.

Just about 69 days to the end of the year when the national carrier, Nigeria Air will start operations as announced by the Federal Government, opposition to the entrance of this new airline has continued to gather momentum.

Concerns raised on Nigeria Air

The opposition became louder recently with the choice of Ethiopian airlines as the strategic investor holding the largest share of 49% in the Nigeria Air, while government is to hold 5% share and 46% for Nigerian investors.

Spokesman for the Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo opined that there was nothing Nigerian in the national carrier, but the bringing onboard of a foreign carrier to decimate the Nigerian market.

He emphasized that, if the local airlines were given the needed support by government like the Ethiopian government had done for its airline, the need for a national carrier would not have arisen.

“We do not see this as the best thing happening”, Dr. Okonkwo said.

Sides to the argument

Also, the Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji at a meeting with the Minister of Aviation Sen Hadi Sirika was emphatic that, an alliance with a strategic investor who is also a competitor with a stronger footing will not be good for Nigeria.

“They are our competitor and we are offloading our BASA to them, how do you think that tomorrow we can be better when Ethiopia has taken over the industry, You are selling our rights”, Nnaji argued.

Retorting, Sen Sirika explained, “Mr Chairman, we went through an international bid and people participated and they [Ethiopian Airlines] participated and they won”.

Two airline operators, Roland Iyayi and Captain Ibrahim Mshelia alleged that, till date the process of the national carrier had been shrouded in secrecy and giving an unfettered access to Ethiopian airlines who had been eyeing the Nigerian market will be a disservice to Nigerians.

“This is the worse thing that can ever happen to the Nigerian industry, the process till date is not transparent and the so-called Nigerian investors MRS and SAHCO, they are not really investors”. Iyayi alleged.

For Mshelia, “Ethiopian airlines should be cancelled, it is an embarrassment for us as a nation with such a potential.

Other reasons given by stakeholders include that, the project has a wrong foundation, a hidden agenda based on the fact that only Ethiopian airline bidded for the project among others.

“How can Nigeria Air consolidate the African market with ET being the technical partner as a major shareholder, how is that possible? Aviation consultant, Simon Tumba asked.

“Just regard the airline as another airline, remove the government and national signal”, President, ART, Dr. Gbenga Olowo said.

According to the stakeholders, this project has a vested interest, a personal interest that has nothing to do with patriotism or national interest and therefore called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to have a rethink on the project and the strategic investor for the overall good of Nigerians.

Writing by Nosa Aituamen; Editing by Muzha Kucha and Tina Oyinsan