No To Nigeria Air


Amidst misgivings from the highly perceptible segment of the Nigerian populace over the propriety of establishing a new national carrier for Nigeria, the Federal Government, on July 18, 2018, went ahead to launch the Nigeria Air as a public private sector partnership which shares are expected to be sold to the public after one year of operations.
Nigeria Air, being an off-shoot of the now moribund Nigerian Airways and Air Nigeria, appears to many as old wine in a new bottle. Not even its launch in London to ensure its visibility and marketability, as the Federal Government claimed, has helped matters.
Given the large-scale corruption, mismanagement, misappropriation of public funds and other infrastructural deficiencies that bedeviled the defunct Nigerian Airways and Air Nigeria, not a few Nigerians believe that the establishment of the Nigeria Air is another conduit to siphon the nation’s scarce resources at a very critical period of our national life.
Ostensibly alluding to the problems that trailed previous national carriers, the Federal Government insists that there is no cause for alarm.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, allaying fears of the collapse of the airline which aviation sources say may come on stream before the end of 2018, he assured that it would not go under as the former ones.
Delivering a public lecture at the Air Force Institute of Technology’s 47th Convocation ceremony in Kaduna, Sirika had assured that the issues that led to the demise of previous national carriers had been identified and taken care of.
The Minister, who did not list the measures purportedly taken by the Federal Government to avert any probable operational hiccup in the new national carrier, assured that the Nigeria Air would be private sector-driven with zero government control.
Government, the Minister had stated, would own five percent (minority share) over majority equity by private investors, adding that the new airline would be heavily equipped and well-capitalised so that the issue of capital would not be a problem.
Contrary to speculations that the Federal Government paid $300 million for its five percent share in Nigeria Air, the Minister said the fund was just a start-up capital (grant) under what he termed as strategic equity investment expected to build on the project, noting that the amount covers aircraft, operations and capital for three years.
There is no gainsaying the fact that government’s initiative to float a national carrier for Nigeria is a good one, given her abundant human and natural resources. And as the most populous black nation in the world whose citizens always patronise other private and national airlines, Nigeria needs a national airline as a matter of utmost necessity.
However, The Tide thinks that for a nation whose citizenry lives on less than $1 per day, a national carrier should not be a national priority for now, especially against the backdrop of its ranking as the global headquarters of poverty.
More worrisome is the fact that the factors that led to the grounding of the Nigerian Airways and Air Nigeria have not been properly identified and addressed.
Also, it has become obvious that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government has failed to deliver on its economic promises to Nigerians, not even in the aviation sector.
Corruption, maladministration, mismanagement, poor services (delays and outright cancellation of flights) without prior notice, poor luggage handling, among others that rocked the operations of the former national carriers are still strong in the Nigerian system. And with a wobbling economy as Nigeria’s, devoid of the enabling environment for investment in a capital intensive sector as aviation where over 90 per cent of national airlines in the African continent are currently grounded, it is hard to believe that the new national carrier would not go the way of others before it.
The Tide, ipso facto, says No to the establishment of Nigeria Air.