ENTHUSIASM AND OPTIMISM among Nigerians welcomed government’s unveiling to investors a new national carrier – “Nigeria Air”, at Farnborough International Air Show in UK, by Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation, Wednesday, July 18. It has green and white colours and strips. Sirika said Nigeria Air will fly 81 routes, local and international. Ethiopia Airlines seems to be in talks with Nigerian government on possible investment in the new national carrier.
It is about the fourth time Nigeria is naming and unveiling a national carrier to replace, the death of Nigeria’s once flying elephant, later an eagle – Nigeria Airways – Nigeria and Africa’s pride. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo liquidated Nigeria Airways in 2003. Nigeria Airways came into existence in 1958, two years before Nigeria became an independent nation. Obasanjo said it liquidated the national and Africa’s pride and heritage on alleged ground of corruption and mismanagement by the board of directors and management.
News about Nigeria bringing back its national carrier broke, first, with the name Virgin Nigeria Airways, then Nigeria Eagle Airlines, later Air Nigeria, to replace Nigeria Airways, on a joint venture business between Nigerian investors and the Virgin Group. Virgin pulled out from the business after set backs in ceiling the deal, between 2008—2010. September 2012, Air Nigeria announced that it has ceased operations as a result of two name changes and deadlock in negotiating investors’ terms, and disengaged its staff.
No indigenous Nigerian airline acquired traffic rights to serve the growing number of international routes as Nigeria Airways since the liquidation. Nigeria, at some point in the past, had about 150, mostly large cabin types, private aircrafts in the country. Most of the aircrafts are on foreign tickets. Only about 20 are on the local list, and their owners were clergymen, governments’ agencies and charter operators.
Nigeria continues to struggles to bring back its once enviable national carrier, while other countries in Africa, top the chart in the aviation industry as a major economic mechanism engineering growth in their respective countries. Ethiopian Airlines leads the table, followed by South African Airways, Air Mauritius, Air Seychelles, Kenya Airways, Royal Air Maroc, TAAG Angola Airlines, Fastjet [Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia], Kalula [South Africa Domestic] and Mango [South Africa Domestic] airlines.
Unveiling Nigeria’s national carrier –- “Nigeria Air”, seems impressive, but not enough to see the project to grand success. Senator Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, did not give business details about the new national carrier. Crucially important and awaited are investment details for “Nigeria Air”.