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Plans For New Nigerian National Airline Suspended

A rendering of what a Nigeria Air aircraft could look like. (Photo: Nigeria Air)

The newly appointed Nigerian Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development Festus Keyamo has ordered the suspension of the Nigeria Air project, a decision that has garnered widespread support, notably from the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), who had previously voiced concerns about the project initiated during the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

Minister Keyamo made this pivotal announcement during a visit to Lagos airports, elucidating that the Nigeria Air Pproject is currently mired in a legal dispute between AON and the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika. The suspension is intended to provide an opportunity for an exhaustive review of the project’s terms and conditions to safeguard the interests of the Nigerian people.

This move comes after AON took legal action against Sirika to halt the national carrier deal and revoke the Air Transport Licence issued to Nigeria Air by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. AON had also raised concerns about the links between the transaction adviser firm and the former aviation minister.

In addition, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) summoned the former Minister Hadi Sirika in June 2023, indicating potential legal challenges surrounding the project.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) revealed that Nigeria Air was still in the early stages of obtaining the necessary Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for commercial operations. Local airlines argued that the Air Transport Licence granted to Nigeria Air hadn’t undergone standard security clearance. Furthermore, they expressed apprehensions about the new airline’s partnership with Ethiopian Airlines, fearing it could adversely affect domestic carriers. Nigeria Air also had support from Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Minister Keyamo’s decision to suspend the Nigeria Air project received commendations from AON and various industry stakeholders. AON expressed confidence that the suspension would pave the way for a comprehensive review, potentially rectifying the project’s flaws and bolstering Nigeria’s standing in the global aviation community.

AON’s spokesman, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, said in a statement that it was evident to everyone who had followed developments around the Nigeria Air project that “the idea was not only ill-thought- out but also lacked any modicum of transparency.”

“It was therefore no surprise that the House of Representatives Committees on Aviation which investigated the process and purported launch of Nigeria Air on Friday, June 2, 2023 described it as a ‘fraud.’ It remains a puzzle to Nigerians why the processes of actualising such a major national project was shrouded in almost utter secrecy until the end of the last government,” Okonkwo said.

“However, we remain confident that by suspending the Nigeria Air project to allow for a thorough review, the Aviation Minister will put things right and help restore Nigeria’s image in the global aviation family,” continued Okonkwo.

AON reiterated its belief that adopting the terms set out by the former aviation minister for the national carrier could have detrimental consequences for Nigeria’s aviation sector, possibly leading to the dominance of Ethiopian Airlines.

Victor Shalton

Author

  • Victor Shalton

    Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Victor’s love for aviation goes way back to when he was 11-years-old. Living close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he developed a love for planes and he even recalls aspiring to be a future airline executive for Kenya Airways. He also has a passion in the arts and loves writing and had his own aviation blog prior to joining AirlineGeeks. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at DeKUT and aspiring to make a career in a more aviation-related course.

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