The federal government has given indications that the national carrier being proposed by the present administration will take off before the end of this year despite opposition to the idea by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON).
Aviationline sources at the Ministry of Aviation indicate that the new national carrier would take off by December 24, 2018 barring all last minute hitches.
Towards making this date a reality, it was gathered, the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had held talks at different levels with officials of Boeing, the United States based aircraft manufacturer, in a bid to make orders for a number of aeroplanes for the actual take off of the new national airline.
This move is in addition to the setting up of a nine-man fast track task force to work out the business plan of the airline with a view to avoiding the pitfalls of the defunct Nigeria Airways which was liquidated in 2003 following its insolvency and to making the new carrier a profit making venture.
Boeing’s management staff said to be present at the meeting included the Director of Sales for Africa, Larry Tolliver and Regional Director of Contracts for Africa, John Fonvielle.
The agenda of the meeting was, however, not disclosed to the media but we learnt that it was not unconnected with fleeting the proposed new national carrier for actual take-off by the end of this year.
The Minister had confirmed on his twitter handle that the meeting with the aircraft manufacturers was in furtherance to the planned setting up of a new carrier soon after the government terminated the appointment of the Lufthansa Consortium to provide transaction advisory services.
While briefing the Federal Executive Council (FEC) last February, the Minister justified the termination of the services of the Lufthansa group because it demanded terms that extant to the present administration’s procurement laws. For instance, it asked for payment of 75% of the contract sum paid to an escrow account opened outside the country and denominated in Euros as against government’s proposal for 15% payment in an account denominated in our local currency.
According to Senator Sirika, they wanted to provide the service, only to the limit of the outlined business case without being charged any tax whatsoever, and this is neither in our request for proposal nor in what the Council has approved.
“It was, therefore, impossible for us to continue the procurement with Lufthansa Consortium,” he had said.
The AON, the umbrella body of indigenous airlines in the country, said recently that it is opposed to the floating of a new national carrier on the grounds that the idea will be counter-productive apart from the fact that it is no longer in vogue in other parts of the world.
According to it, a national carrier is no longer relevant in a dynamic economy and at this point in time as floating a national carrier with tax payers’ money will be inimical to the overall interests of private sector entrepreneurs.
In its opinion, the government should stop at just providing a conducive operating business environment and a level playing field for establishment of a private sector driven flag carriers in the country.
“In the overall scheme of things, the national carrier can only result in a distortion to the current market and a huge drainpipe to government’s treasury,” it further averred. As at press time, it was gathered five of the fleet of aircraft for the takeoff of the airline are expected to arrive the country Dec. 19th, barely five days ahead of inauguration. According to our source, it is expected that within the next five years the fleet will grow to not less than 30 aircraft. Also we learnt that the name, logo and livery of the new national courier will be unveiled at the forthcoming Farnborough Airshow opening on july 19th 2018