•FG, Nigerians own 51 equity

•Let us discard national carrier for flag carrier —Stakeholders

By Lawani Mikairu & Johnbosco Agbakwuru

BARRING any last  minute change, the new national carrier, Nigerian Air, will begin flight operations in April 2022.But experts in the aviation sector think differently, saying a flag, rather than a national carrier, would be more appropriate.However, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, disclosed the news of take-off of the new carrier while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the virtual Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.He explained that in the new national carrier, the federal government would have not more than five percent equity shares, while Nigerian entrepreneurs would have 46 percent equity shares, even as the international strategic partners will have 49 equity shares.Sirika said the Fedecal Executive Council gave approval for the new national carrier, adding that the new carrier iwould generate about 70 thousand jobs a few years after operations, noting this was higher than the total federal civil servants in the country.Recalling that over 400,000 Nigerians participated in choosing the name which was launched in 2018, the minister said:  “Today (yesterday) in council, civil aviation presented two memoranda. The first one is approval for the award of contract for the provision of Automated Civil Aviation Regulatory Equipment, including software support and training, which will be located in Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.”In summary, this is a software that will allow all of the activities of civil aviation regulation to be done electronically on one platform, including payments, follow ups on personnel licensing, the medicals, the economic regulation of airlines, safety regulation of airlines and all other businesses within the envelope of civil aviation will be monitored by this single software.

“It is called ‘the truth machine’ in quotation in Europe, because all of the truth of regulation of civilization will appear on this platform, it’s an extremely important software that the world has now come to terms with.”The contract was given to Messrs. Arif Investment Nigeria Limited, who are representatives of Empik GmbH. This Empik are the creators of this software, one of its kind in the world, at the sum of N1,492,520,325, which will be including 7.5% VAT and completion period of six months. So that’s the first memoranda.”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%. So 5% is the maximum equity that government will take, then 46% will be owned by Nigerian entrepreneurs. ”So, if you add that, it’s 51%. So, it’s 51% majority shareholding by Nigerians and then 49% 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. It’s 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.”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 at  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.”Meanwhile, aviation stakeholders yesterday advised the federal government to shelve the idea of establishing a national carrier, arguing that it would be better to designate any of the existing domestic airlines as the country’s flag carrier.Speaking with Vanguard yesterday on the new carrier, Group Captain John Ojikutu, retd, said government had spent too much time since 2017 on the issue of establishing a national carrier.He said:  ” How long has it taken all the new airlines to prepare for their commercial operations? They all started much later than the ‘national carrier’ we began its rollout since 2017.”My worry is that it is too late a time for a national carrier or else we may end up with a ‘government carrier; let us discard the ‘national carrier’ for a flag carrier now before we end up with a government carrier. ”The way things have been going and are still going, I hope we won’t end up with another failed attempt like Virgin Nigeria.”However, the immediate past Secretary General of National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Comrade Yinka Abioye, shared a different view. He said the federal government could actualize the national carrier if it was determined to do so.Comrade Abioye told Vanguard that the Aviation Minister should be given the necessary support to get the national carrier on board..He said : ” I wish to congratulate the Honourable Minister , Aviation ,HMA, for his foresight and commitment to the growth and development of the Nigerian aviation system. As the de facto implementer of all relevant aviation policies, we shall look forward to seeing the National carrier unveiled as he has promised in 2022, God sparing our lives.” Since the HMA holds the aces, knows more than what we know and the processes of delivering this expected baby, we shall give him all necessary support required. There is nothing impossible in Nigeria.”A senior director and a stakeholder who didn’t want his name in print because he is a serving officer, said the federal government cannot establish a national carrier now.He said:  “The good will and confidence of aviation stakeholders have been lost. We have been on this national carrier thing since this government came to power. How long does it take to establish an airline?’

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.