Since Nigeria Airways ceased operation in 2003, the country has not floated another national carrier. Nigeria’s international air transportation is therefore dominated by foreign airlines, while private airlines hold sway on the local routes.
An attempt was made in 2018 to float a national carrier. The Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika unveiled Nigeria Air, at Famborough Air Show, London.
Sirika who spoke at the occasion, lamented the absence of national carrier, stressing that government was determined to provide efficient air transportation in Nigeria.
However, till date, Nigeria is yet to float a national carrier.
For the domestic routes, Nigerians are equal to the task, as they dominate the local scene.
The airlines operating domestic routes are: Dana Air, Air Peace, Aero Contractors, Overland, Azman Air, Max Air, Medview, Ibom Air, Imo Air (managed by Dana), Arik, United Nigeria, among others.
Mr Allen Onyema, the Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace said that the airline was floated in 2013 in order to boost air transportation in Nigeria.
Air Peace has 26 aircraft in its fleet with head office in Lagos.
Onyema explains that the airline operates domestic flights within Nigeria, as well as international flights within West Africa.
He said that Air Peace launched new routes in February 2021, namely: Enugu to Kano, Enugu to Asaba, Enugu to Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt to Kaduna, Ilorin to Lagos, Ilorin to Abuja and Ibadan to Abuja.
The airline recently launched the Lagos-Abuja-Makurdi route, which Onyema described as historic.
He said that before now, no airline operates commercial flights from Lagos or Abuja to Makurdi.
Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue who commented on the development, said that it would lessen the sufferings people and inventors are going through particularly those of them that want to invest in the state.
He commended Air Peace management for choosing Benue for its flight operation, adding that it would be of great benefit to the people of the state.
Sen. George Akume, a former governor of Benue, said that the activities of the airline would boost economic development in the state.
Dr Obiora Okonkwo, in February floated the United Nigeria Airlines, which he said would operate in six cities: Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Asaba and Owerri.
Okonkwo said that investment in the aviation sector was to assist unite Nigerians, noting that the choice of Enugu as the operational base of the airlines was strategic.
“Our short term goal is to consolidate. You can see we have a base in Enugu and we have to consolidate, establish all our routes and then work on expansion. We want to expand beyond Nigeria, starting from the West Coast, just for a start. We have a big plan.
“The market is huge; there is need for a lot of aircraft. We have full load in all the routes we have operated.
“I guess those who are in the business should be competing with us first. We should be the people they should be worried about, because we are new.
“We think that within the next three months, we shall be able to expand our routes,’’ he said.
Cecilia Oguama, Airport Manager at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, noted that Enugu was the right route to launch into the market, given the traffic.
She said the airport was crucial to the economy of the South-East states, adding that the airport which was the only international airport in the geo-political zone had increased import and export opportunities for business owners.
According to her, the traffic in and out of the airport has increased tremendously.
“We are now having between 6,000 and 7,000 passengers weekly.
“ Before COVID-19, we had less than 1,000 passengers traffic, because we had only one airline then. In 2019, we only had Air Peace operating, but now, we have four others operating regularly, including United Airline.
“We have close to eight flights daily and United Airline has made Enugu their base, so they would enjoy tremendous support from the airport,’’ she state.
Mr Victor Michael, an aviation regular passenger, said that participation of private airlines in the nation’s aviation sector was a good development.
He called on the Federal Government to continue to provide enabling environment in order to attract more investors.
An aviation expert, retired Group Capt. John Ojikutu, described as good development the participation of private individuals in the aviation sector, adding that they have big roles to play.
He identified lack of corporate governance in the operations and management of Nigeria’s domestic airlines as some of the reasons for the short lifespan of the airlines.
Ojikutu also said that poor business plans was another reason why private airlines do not last long in the sector.
According to the aviation expert, the sector requires a lot of financial investment in equipment and training, both in the public and private sectors, because of demands for investment on safety and security needed for the industry.
He disclosed that profit for the private operators is not always promising.
“ This is a sector where you invest dollars and you make cent profit, unlike the Nigerian businessmen who want to make dollars for investing in dollars.’’
Ojikutu said that for the sector to function effectively, the Federal Government must enact enabling laws that will make it mandatory for the operators to meet global standards.