The federal government has reiterated that its partnership with the East African carrier, Ethiopian Airlines for the awaiting national carrier, Nigeria Air, would be a win for the country.
Senator Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation stated this in Montreal, Canada, at the ongoing 41st General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Conference in a meeting with the Ethiopian minister of transport, Mrs. Dagamawit Moges.
Sirika acknowledged the fact that Nigeria has had some sordid experiences with the formation of a national carrier in the past, but assured that the deal with Ethiopian Airlines would be a different experience for the country.
He insisted that Nigeria, with over 200 million population was not lacking in capacity to exclusively birth a national airline, but said it “wanted to avoid the issues that led to the collapse of the previous national carrier.”
Besides, he added that the choice of Ethiopian Airlines was based on the premise that the airline had severally demonstrated over the years that government business could be run profitably, apart from being an African airline that had carved a niche for itself in the world air transportation industry.
He emphasised that the national carrier project was one such project that President Muhammadu Buhari took seriously, saying that its successful delivery amounted to a major boost to the development and success of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) to which both countries are signatories.
Earlier in her speech, the Ethiopian Minister of Transport and Logistics, Mrs. Dagamawit Moges, described the Nigeria Air project as a partnership between the two highest populated African nations that would impact greatly on the aviation industry on the continent.
According to her, the government of Ethiopia, particularly, Ethiopian Airlines was delighted about the partnership for the establishment of Nigeria’s national carrier, hoping that it would open new vistas for partnership in other economic and political spheres.
She commended the Nigerian government for picking Ethiopian Airlines as the Preferred partner and core investor for the national carrier out of the numerous interests that were expressed.
She vowed that the consideration of Ethiopian Airlines as a strategic partner to Nigeria Air, would not be taken for granted, saying that the partnership would be mutually beneficial to both nations.
Moges also said that Nigeria, with its position as a major player in the global aviation industry, remained an attractive partner and reiterated her stance that the establishment of Nigeria Air would be beneficial to all involved, including Nigeria’s teeming populace.
Choice of Ethiopian Airlines
The federal government had two weeks ago selected Ethiopian Airlines as the core investor and partner in the Nigeria Air project. Ethiopian Airlines is said to have a 49% stake in the proposed national carrier.
Also mentioned were the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc, MRS, and other institutional investors with 46%, while the federal government retained its 5%, making it a total of 100% shares.
Sirika, at a media briefing in Abuja said that the Request for Proposal (RFP) under the Public Private Participation (PPP) Act, governed by Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) had been completed.
He stated the full business case would be expected to be approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), stressing that the government expected the process to take six to eight weeks.
Sirika explained that a bidder’s conference was held online on 28th March 2022 with over 100 participants. Over 60 parties requested access to the data room. On 10th June 2022, the ministry received on time one closed bid by the Ethiopian Airline Consortium.
Few others, he noted, attempted to submit, but unfortunately could not meet the deadline, stressing that since the government did not collect the bids, it was not in a position to say who they were.
However, many industry players knocked the federal government for the choice of the East African carrier, saying that rather than be a partner with Nigeria, the airline would be competing with Nigeria Air, especially on its Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) arrangement routes.
They also argued that its choice would lead to a capital flight out of Nigeria.
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