It appears Nigeria’s national carrier, Nigeria Air, may commence full flight operations and services before May 29, handover of President Muhammadu Buhari.
This is according to a revelation by Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Haidi Sirika, at the National Aviation Stakeholders’ Forum 2023 held in Abuja, on Thursday.
President Buhari had earlier in October 2022, said the National Carrier would commence flight services by December 2022, but that did not happen owing to the controversy surrounding the airline’s ownership structure.
The controversy had led to a Court order, stopping the Federal Government from implementing the project.
Addressing the stakeholders’ forum, Sirika, who noted that the project is about 98 percent completed, said the latest deadline is another proposed date for the take-off of Nigeria Air.
“All of the roadmap items except, perhaps the airline which in my opinion is at 98 percent completion, and we will fly within these remaining two months by the grace of God.
“We will also finish the concessions. So, all those things we said we would do when we came in, we did them.
“Before the end of this administration, before May 29th, we will fly,” the minister said.
Commenting on the bidding process of the Nigeria Air, Sirika said he was pleased that the Ethiopian Airlines, ET, consortium eventually emerged the winner.
He noted that except for Overland Airways, he approached international and domestic airlines about partnering with Nigeria Air.
“When we were setting up Nigeria Air limited, my gut feeling is to partner with airlines that I think will add value, with financial experience and high profile such as Emirate, Qatar, Lufthansa, and the rest of them.
“Those who worked closely with me know that this is my forecast and what I wanted because I believe if you partner Lufthansa for example, automatically you will have license to fly.
“I thought we would do that, and I made attempts to reach them and invite them, as I did with all airline owners in Nigeria, except Overland.
“I reached out to them personally to come and partner to create a strong airline but fast forward, we had a bidder, Ethiopian airline.
“I was very happy that we got them (Ethiopian) to come. It was not my choice but I am happy now knowing what I know.
“They are a household name, strong, and they have been in business for 70years unbroken and they have over 200 aircraft.
“So, I am very glad we are partnering with them and it is a reality.
“Some airlines are in Court and their grouse is that it can be any airline in the world but not Ethiopian because, in their own way, they think Ethiopian is a competitor,,” he said.