Nigeria Air billed to take-off April 2022, provide 70,000 jobs, says minister Sirika

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The new national airliner – Nigeria Air – is projected to create about 70,000 jobs when it becomes operational in April next year, according to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

The minister spoke in Abuja Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa.

According to Sirika, the national carrier will be run by a company in which the Nigerian government will hold a 5 per cent stake, Nigerian entrepreneurs holding 46 per cent, while the remaining 49 per cent will be reserved for yet to be assigned strategic equity partners, including foreign investors.

Sirika recalled that over 400,000 Nigerians participated in choosing the name, which was launched in 2018.

The Federal Government in London at the Farborough Air Show; a gathering for global players in the aviation industry, unveiled the name and logo of ‘Nigeria Air’.

The new carrier, according to Sirika, was  expected to fly into 81 routes on domestic, regional and intercontinental routes.

Since then, the project has been paved with turbulence.

Torrents of commentaries have enveloped the global arena over the government decision to float a national carrier after it liquidated the Nigeria Airways Limited in 2004.

The new airline, many industry players have cautioned, must learn from the pitfalls of the former one, which, they said, lacked the right to remain in business.

The defunct Nigeria Airways Limited was operated as a social service.

Sirika said: “The next one also is approval of the outline business case for the establishment of the national carrier and this is the sixth time the memorandum appeared before Council. The sixth time, we got lucky to be passed by Council.

“The structure of the proposed airline; government will be owning not more than 5 per cent. So, 5 per cent is the maximum equity that government will take, and then 46 per cent will be owned by Nigerian entrepreneurs. So, if you add that, it’s 51 per cent. So, it’s 51 per cent majority shareholding by Nigerians and then 49 per cent will be held by strategic equity partner or partners that will be sourced during the procurement phase, which is the next phase.

“This airline, if started, and within the first few years, will generate about 70,000 jobs. These 70,000 jobs are higher than the total number of civil servants that we have in the country. Its importance had been well discussed so, I’ll not go back to it. You had discussed it separately also on various fora as to the need for it.

He added: “But, one important item is the AU agenda 2063, which speaks to integration of Africa, which speaks to the cause and trade within Africa that is intra-Africa and to which also another flagship project of AU agenda 2063 called the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

“Now, the only way, the quickest way that you can integrate Africa is by air because if you want to interconnect all the 54 nations of Africa, via rail or road, or waterways, which is even impossible, the quantum of money that you need to do all of these, the time it will take to develop this infrastructure, as well as the maintenance cost, is almost prohibitive.

“It’s doable, it’s time-taking, but with aviation, within a year, once the right policy is in place, like SAATM, you can connect Africa and then of course, the needed integration will happen. Part of AU agenda 2063 So, these are the two memoranda that were submitted, and gladly they were passed by Council.

“The name is Nigerian Air which of course, if you remember back in time, this was subject to national debate and 400,000 people participated, choose the name, the colour, the logo, everything and it was produced that time. It was launched also in Farnborough as far back as 2018.

“So, the business case is a public document. It will be on our website, you can download it and we can give you copies. This airline will pick up and start, by God’s grace, on or before April 2022,” he said.

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