The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has disclosed reasons why the Federal Government picked Ethiopian Airlines as the preferred bidder for the National Carrier, Nigeria Air.

The Minister said Ethiopian Airlines was the only airline that responded to its requests for expression of interest and fulfilled all the stipulated conditions laid down by Nigeria.

Sirika disclosed this while presenting the scorecard of the ministry in Abuja on Thursday. He said other airlines in the world ignored Nigeria’s call to join hands with her to float a national carrier despite the fact that he personally went to the airlines and met with them at several air shows and international aviation forums to convince them to partner with the country.

He added that the airline proved that it is not only efficient and prosperous by registering over $1bn profit after tax even in the wake of COVID-19 but has continued to flourish despite the challenges in the aviation sector globally.

He added, “We did not cede Nigeria Air to Ethiopian Airlines. It is the only airline in the world that made $1 billion profit even during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the most prosperous, efficient and leading airline in the African continent and it was the only airline that responded to our request for partnership to run the airline after many months of advertisement of expression of interest.

“Even after some interested persons asked Nigeria to extend the time of EoI and we did, none of them showed interest. Officials of the ministry of aviation led by me personally visited some of the leading airlines across the world and pleaded with them to take up the partnership with Nigeria to set up the airline, none of them signified interest except Ethiopian Airlines, which has been allotted 49 per cent shares while Nigerian institutional investors take up 45 per cent while the federal government will take up only five per cent.

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“The choice of Ethiopian Airlines is good for Nigeria and it is in line with the African Union Agenda. Our desire is for Africa to come together and lead the African aviation market through our new partnership with Ethiopian Airlines. The partnership will also reduce cost of operations and airfares for Nigerian and African air travellers as opposed to the current situation.

Ethiopian Airlines airplane
Ethiopian Airlines airplane

“Contrary to what people think, let it be known that Ethiopian Airlines emerged as the preferred partner of Nigeria Air through a transparent and credible process that cannot be faulted because we want the project to succeed so that Nigeria can have an airline that does not suffer the fate of the former Nigeria Airways.”

Speaking further, the minister noted that going forward, all airports in the country must be built and operated in accordance with the Aviation masterplan that had been developed in order to avoid chaotic situations that have already sprung out in many of the airports including Lagos International airport, where many structures have already been marked for demolition in the overall public interest despite the cost involved.

Regarding the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Abuja, the minister pointed out that the entire stretch running from Bill Clinton Way through Gwagwalada has been captured under the Abuja Airport Masterplan and that any development that does not fit into the masterplan would be demolished.

He, therefore, cautioned individuals and entities currently carrying out development projects along that stretch measuring about 12,000 hectares of land, to pause and await further information to avoid demolition.

The minister further warned international airlines operating in Nigeria to respect Nigeria’s sovereignty, dignity and honour in their operations under the Bilateral Air Services Agreement that they signed with the country and not to threaten it at random because of the delay in repatriating their funds.

He said that those airlines need Nigeria just as Nigerians need their services and that they should therefore show respect, patience and understanding with Nigeria, adding that trapped funds will be cleared before the end of the year.

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