Nigeria’s government Friday announced the appointment of six consultants who would advise the country on possible improvements to their aviation infrastructure, including the promised creation of a national airline.
President Muhammad Buhari campaigned with the promise of forming a state-run airline after Nigeria’s two largest privately-owned carriers – Arik Air and Aero Contractors – were possessed by the government after amassing large amounts of debt.
The six consulting firms, which include Cologne, Germany-based Lufthansa AG, will be assisting the government on how to go about setting up the aforementioned airline, an aircraft leasing company, and on other facets of a successful aviation industry.
A cabinet approved approximately 1.5 million USD for the project, which is seen as a major step toward healing the fractured Nigerian aviation market, thought to be a major hurdle to further economic growth and prosperity.
A portion of the motivation for the decision was also that Nigeria has long been largely dependent on outside carriers to provide flights into and out of the country. Currently, under 9 percent of international passengers flying into and out of Nigeria do so aboard the country’s two largest carriers offering international flights.
To put that into perspective, United, Delta, and American all carry three times more international traffic than their closest competitor in British Airways.
Because of those numbers, very little money is flowing through the Nigerian economy on account of passengers flying internationally. Buhari’s government has acknowledged this is a major issue that needs to be dealt with, and the newly appointed committee is a part of their response.
The entire aviation sector in Nigeria has suffered in recent years. Late last year, Ghana cut fuel prices by 20 percent just after Nigeria raised them by nearly 100 percent. This led to a huge loss in overall revenue, exemplified by Emirates rerouting one of their daily flights to Nigeria through Ghana to buy fuel before continuing on for its eventual flight to Dubai.
On top of that, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, all crucial to the survival of Nigeria’s aviation market, are all losing revenue.
The situation looks bleak in the country, but this is certainly a step toward beginning the revival of Nigeria as West Africa’s dominant aviation power.
This government is looking to create a super-hub out of Lagos, one that can be used to successfully serve destinations as far away as an aircraft can reliably fly. So far, that has proven to be difficult, even with airlines in government control. But all parties involved seem to recognize there is a lot of work that has to be done.
Of course, the country has been put in a tough position. It is difficult to trumpet infrastructure and policy improvements when there are much more trying issues at hand.
But now, the Nigerian government has its chance. So do the private investors Buhari desperately hopes will put capital down to bolster the new changes. And if they take advantage of the opportunity, Nigerian-registered aircraft might become a more common sighting across the globe.