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National carrier ‘will commence operations’ in December – Hadi Sirika

Nigeria’s proposed National Carrier will commence operations by December, this Year, according to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

He announced this in Abuja during a meeting convened by the Senate Committee on Aviation, with all Stakeholders in the industry.

There is no reneging on the Federal Government’s partnership with Ethiopian Airlines, Mr Sirika said.

He said the essence of having a national carrier was to improve services and make the industry affordable to all and sundry.

“The government has done extremely well for the local airlines and we have said any of them cannot be a national carrier,” he declared.

“We have met severally with the airline operators and pleaded with them to invest in the project. This is because the Federal Government would have a minimum shareholding in it.

“The intent is not to kill any business. The intent is to help to promote all businesses to be able to provide the needed service and employ our people.

“Also, if everyone of them is doing very well without any favouritism, then it means that the competition will be healthy and will bring down the price of tickets and increase the propensity to fly and make more people to fly and then make more money for the airlines and give more service to the country Nigeria.”

He equally emphasized that when established, Nigerians will benefit from the robust market of over 200 million people.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Biodun Olujunmi, earlier said the essence of the meeting was for the Minister to give clearance on the concerns raised by members of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria.

According to her, the Airline operators wanted to know how the partnership would hamper the businesses of patriotic Nigerians who had invested in the Aviation sector.

“Some Nigerians had invested their hard-earned funds in Aviation and they felt that they would lose out completely if the Nigerian Government decided to partner the Ethiopian Airlines with mouth-watering incentives,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Vice-President, Airline Operators of Nigeria and Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, has alleged that the entrance of Ethiopian Airline is to the detriment of local operators.

He appealed to the Federal Government to give attention to local Airlines who are equipped to fly international routes.

“Already, Ethiopian Airlines is asking for a 15 – year tax holiday when no Nigerian carrier has been given one year tax holiday,” Mr Onyema complained.

“We could do better than what we are doing if we have such an incentive.

“There are multiplicity of taxes and levies we are battling with in the industry that is crippling our operations and forcing the air fare to be skyrocketing on daily basis.”

The domestic operators have often argued that they have been responsible for growing the aviation industry from about 8 million passengers to well over 20 million, having one of the highest post-COVID recovery growth in the World.

The The local airline operators have also insisted that they have proved themselves capable of doing whatever the Ethiopia Airlines was capable of.

“We do not want the partnership to be known as National Carrier because it connotes ownership,” Mr Onyema insisted.

“A strategic partner cannot be a competitor on the continent. Domestic airlines should be allowed to grow to develop,” he stressed.

Reporting by Amaka Ane; Editing by Abdullahi Lamino and Tony Okerafor