AIR NIGERIA: FGN Unveils The First Plane To Nigerians …. Nigeria Air will help in Africa connectivity – Sirika

Oru Leonard 

In keeping to his words, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hardi Sirika, after several postponements and months of expectation, has on Friday unveiled the first plane of the Nigeria Air fleet in fulfilment of the promise of this Administration.

This has come even with claims by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), that there is a pending court case.

Sirika said the Ethiopia Airline is a good airline to partner and that Nigeria Air will help in Africa connectivity.

” Our geography supports aviation operations: we have the population, economy, the know how and the market. It is a huge market with great potential.

“This airline is like any other airline and business entity in Nigeria. It is a limited liability company; the federal government owns only 5 percent shares the airline was an investment between entrepreneurs in Nigeria and an Ethiopian consortium.

“We are grateful to God that it is the Ethiopia Airline that own majority shares. Their history and market status speaks volume. They are in the right spot and destination,” Sirika explained.

He promised that within 4 to five years the airline would have at least 30 aircraft in it’s fleet.

In an with Journalists Sirika said:”This is one infrastructure that has been missing in general aviation on dynamics of the country, the airline that is equal to the size of dynamics of the market in Nigeria for its geography and fortune, indeed, we do need the kind of infrastructure that we are having today in the name of Nigeria Air limited. “This Nigeria Air Limited is obviously an entity known to Nigerian laws and the partnership between entrepreneurs in Nigeria and entrepreneurs in the Ethiopia Airline consortium.

“The consortium is a company belonging to many partners and it is a very long journey, we started in 2016 and ended up today.

“There were challenges but we did not allow them to make us lose focus and today we are here. We pray that it will be good for our country, its people, its future, and humanity.

“On the litigation and if his action amounts to subjudice, he said: “It is not subjudice because if it is, we are not going to embark upon it. No law stops us from continuing to bring developmental projects to our people. The constitution of Nigeria is very clear and it is within their rights to go to court for whatever reason they want to go to court and it is within our rights to do all the things that will promote the general wellbeing of Nigeria and Nigerians and this is one of them.

“The economy of Nigeria and the centrality of civil aviation in the promotion of the economy and value addition to the GDP is very paramount and it is the focus of government and I can tell you that from the roadmap we implemented, aviation became the first growing sector of the economy before covid and even with covid, we were the third and this is according to NBS, so, it is a noble thing we are doing and Nigerians are happy and they love it. So, this is the alternative to show how to do airline business very well and to serve Nigerian people better.

“It is not an unhealthy competition, the market is good for everybody. During Buhari’s time, we doubled the number of aircraft and airlines in the country, we gave everybody a level playing field, and I did not turn down a single request from airlines since I became a minister. 

“On when the flight will commence, he said: “In the process of establishing an airline, there are conditions set by the regulator which is the NCAA. So, this airplane will be here and we will commence the demonstration flight to show that we can do it. It is normally around 0-40 hours but it can be less, it can be five or even two hours and this is to ensure that we are able and have the capacity to do it. So, I know the NCAA will give clean bills to start to fly. So, this is part of the process and it is the beginning of the establishment of the airline.

“In the Business Case, it is envisaged that it will hit the 35 aircraft mark but you don’t come in one day to dump the airplanes and you don’t come in one day and start going to London, so it is a gradual process and the aircraft will be coming after another until the five years that we reach the 35 aircraft mark.

“This is a private sector-led airline with the government with only five per cent and there is no stopping right by the government. So, Nigerians are welcome and I am sure the five percent will go to the public for sale at some Point.

It is beginning with a local flight and it is a Boeing 737 capacity aircraft.”

Earlier, the permanent secretary of the ministry Dr. Emmanuel Meribole said it was a happy moment for all stakeholders as the dream is to lift Nigeria aviation to the top in Africa and thanked the minister for for persevering in making sure this happens within the lifespan of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The representatives of Ethiopian Airlines, major partners in the project, explained that the delay was not due to operational issues but the court case and gave assurance that Ethiopian airlines which is the major partner has a track record of high standards and breaking even . He cited the COVID-19 period when according to him, the airline bounced back very fast and even grew while others were depending on bailout.

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