By Ignatius Ushie
After months of speculation and expectations, the federal government yesterday made a bold move towards the actualisation of the national carrier with the unveiling of the branding and livery of the airline.
The government also said it has selected 81 routes for the commencement of operation of Nigeria Air. Speaking at the Farnborough Airshow in London following the unveiling of the new national carrier, the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, was quoted to have said that for a start, the airline would operate 40 domestic, regional and sub-regional and 41 international routes.
According to the minister in a state issued by his ministry, a statement issued by “I am very pleased to tell you that we are finally on track to launching a new national flag carrier for our country, Nigeria Air. We are all fully committed to fulfilling the campaign promise made by our President, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015. We are aiming to launch Nigeria Air by the end of this year.
“We obtained the Certificate of Compliance from the Nigerian Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission two weeks ago and can now go into the investor search. I am confident that we will have a well-run national flag carrier that is a global player, compliant with international safety standards and one which has the customer at its heart.
“We hope to establish an airline that communicates the essence of our beautiful country; an airline we can all be proud of.”
According to the ministry, extensive market research was carried out, which involved focus groups across the country, and over 100 interviews with aviation stakeholders and professionals, politicians as well as business owners.
“The government will support the launch of the new flag carrier with viability gap funding in a public private partnership arrangement to deliver a national flag carrier guided by international standards,” the ministry added.
Sirika said the Federal Government had learnt a lot of lessons from the experience of the defunct Nigeria Airways, and was now determined not to repeat the mistakes that led to its demise.
He said, “This airline is a business and not a social service. It is not intended to kill any airline in Nigeria but complement it and promote it. It must be done in the right way so that it will be here to stay.
“Government will not hold shares beyond five per cent at the topmost. This airline has the backing of the government. Government will come up with funding according to the business case that has been delivered to the government. We will engage the youth of Nigeria because we do believe in the ‘Not Too Young to Run’.
“We engaged them in the campaign to name this airline. We engaged 400,000 Nigerian youths to arrive at the name of the airline. All of their ideas were taken and digested and we came up with what is an average. The airline will take into cognizance the multicultural nature of the nation through its diversity. We want to use this airline to make a statement that yes, we can do it.”
By Ignatius Ushie