Months after the Federal Government of Nigeria abandoned the national carrier project, Ethiopian Airlines has disclosed that the company is in talks with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to become the country’s national carrier.
The decision was made known by the Ethiopian Airlines’ Group Chief Executive Officer, Tewolde Gebremariam, who was recently in Nigeria to continue talks regarding the national carrier. He also disclosed that talks are on-going with Ghana to float theirs as well.
Plans to establish the country’s national carrier had begun after a Committee on Establishment of National Carrier was inaugurated by President Buhari’s administration on August 25, 2015, in Abuja. The Committee submitted its report a month after. The carrier was later unveiled in London and named Nigeria Air in July 2018.
Reasons for its suspension: Preparations were suspended three months later in September 2018 due to ‘strategic planning‘, according to the then Minister of State for Aviation, Sirika Hadi. There were however claims that the delay came as a result of disagreement that ensued among the former FEC members over modality issue, as well as the uncertainty currently being witnessed over cabinet formation in this second term of the administration.
Apparently, some members of the Federal Executive Council suggested that the project should be 100% private-owned, while the others wanted the Government to make some investments towards the establishment of the national carrier. All these have been frustrating the commencement of the Nigeria Air project.
Before the suspension, Sirika had disclosed that N1.52 billion was approved to initiate the process in 2017. He later revealed that the Federal Government had earmarked N47 billion to ensure the completion of the project when talks began to revive the project. But some experts said $2.1 billion is needed to acquire some aircraft in order to float the proposed national carrier.
According to Siriki, the national carrier project would be completed before President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration ends in 2023. Although he didn’t give a specific time-frame, he said he was certain Nigeria Air would lift off before President Buhari’s tenure elapses.
Ethiopian Airlines disrupting plans: That plan might be on hold with the disclosure that Ethiopian Airlines is in discussion with the government to become the national carrier. The company currently operates in Nigeria, but it is looking to start from scratch to operate Nigeria’s national carrier.
Gebremariam stated there are no local airlines to bare that strong representation and able to meet local and international demands. He disclosed that discussion is also on going with private and local carriers in Nigeria.
“We are discussing at all levels. We are also discussing with private carriers, local carriers in Nigeria and the government but we are making it abundantly clear that we want to start a new one because starting from a clean slate or paper is advantageous because we won’t have any legacy or baggage to carry.”
Ethiopian Airlines’ anxiousness explained: The CEO of the company said Nigeria’s failure to have a national carrier is affecting the African market due to its market size. According to him, African airlines are losing the market share to foreign airlines, “So, this concern is part of continental concern because, in Africa, non-African carriers have the biggest shares.
It is around 80-20 ratio. 80% of the traffic between Africa and the rest of the world is carried by non-African carriers.”
The airlines considered before: Ethiopian Airlines is not the first Airline company linked to the national carrier. There were claims the FG might merge Arik and Aero in order to create a new national carrier, but AMCON denied the report.