Nigeria’s federal government has continued to push for the actualisation of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, despite the objection to its establishment by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON).
On November 19, 2022, AON filed an originating summons against the federal government for the establishment of a new national carrier after the liquidation of Nigeria Airways.
AON had prayed that the court should look at the extant laws and interpret such to know if the processes to start a new national carrier were not in violation of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The AON had urged the court to stop the national carrier deal and withdraw the Air Transport Licence (ATL) already issued to Nigeria Air by the federal government through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
But as part of efforts to actualising the airline project, President Muhammadu Buhari on February 19, 2023, met with the executives of Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa, to further cement the deal with the East African carrier, which has 49 per cent stake in the planned airline.
Since the visit to Ethiopia by the President, THISDAY learnt that there have been moves to continue to push for the establishment of the airline before the end of the Buhari administration.
Also an informed industry source told THISDAY that the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has started making moves to ensure that even if the national carrier were not realised before the current administration wind down, the next government would continue with the project.
An industry stakeholder who has been following the progress of the planned national carrier expressed confidence that the federal government would establishment the airline before it hands over to new government, which would ensure that the airline begins operation immediately.
“The new airline already has Air Transport Licence (ATL), it will be given Air Operator Certificate (AOC) before the end of the Buhari administration. We are hopeful that the same political party will continue in office and the new administration will just continue from where Buhari stopped,” he said.
The source also said Buhari at different occasions had expressed interest to see that the project, which was one of the six projects planned by his government for the aviation industry, was realised.
“The in-coming government will continue with the project because it is already at advanced stage and the national carrier will bring the needed trajectory the industry needs to advance from the country not having strong airline that can compete with other international carriers,” he also said.
But a member of AON told THISDAY that although two persons lobbying to become the Minister of Aviation in the in-coming administration had assured that they would continue with the project, the case in court remains a logjam to the project and the airline cannot operate until the case is concluded or vacated.
The federal government and Ministry of Aviation had sought the transfer of the case instituted against it on the planned establishment of a national carrier project, Nigeria Air to the Federal High Court – Abuja Judicial Division from Lagos, but AON insisted that the case must continue in Lagos.
However, some stakeholders have expressed reservation over the establishment of the national carrier, saying that airline when established would compete with existing airlines and obviously as an airline with government stake it would enjoy a lot of privileges that will enable it undermine existing airlines and with time put them out of existence.
Marketing and PR strategic who is also aviation analyst, Sindy Forster, said the establishment of the national carrier would jeopardise the business of Nigerian airlines because the Ministry that is supposed to protect them has established an airline that would compete with them.