By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja

AVIATION Minister, Mr Hadi Sirika, has on Friday, revealed that Ethiopian Airlines, the preferred bidder for the Nigeria Air project, has raised the anticipated $300 million that will launch the national carrier to its full size of 30 aircraft and international operations within the next two years.

At a press conference in Abuja, Sirika said that the first of the three Boeing 737-800 planes required for the launch would be arriving in Nigeria shortly.

According to him, “It is in a configuration very suitable for the Nigerian market. Nigeria Air will launch with a shuttle service between Abuja and Lagos. Other domestic destinations will follow thereafter.

“The Request for Proposal (RFP) under the PPP act, governed by ICRC, is completed. After a careful, detailed and ICRC governed selection process, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Consortium has been selected as preferred bidder, offering an owner consortium of three Nigerian investors; MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund (46%), FGN owning 5% and ET 49%.

“The consortium has been subject to a due diligence process, after which the contract will be negotiated between the consortium and the FGN, leading to a Full Business Case, which will be expected to be approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). We expect this process to take 6-8 weeks”, he added.

He explained: “The money spent for the launch of Nigeria Air, for all the requirements to establish an AOC and be admitted starting an airline operation, is well within the 5% capital investment of the Federal Government of Nigeria, that will be overall needed to establish the National Carrier initially for the AOC approval and everything else required by stringent national aviation regulations, as prescribed in the FEC approved Outline Business Case (OBC)”.

The airline has began looking for existing and experienced B737 captains, first officers, cabin crews, and engineers, the minister noted.

Sirika confirmed that a provisional executive team comprised of extremely competent experts has been working since February 2022 to establish all essential legal and industry conditions to launch the national carrier.

“All Executives have been approved by NCAA, the Air Transport License has been issued by NCAA, Nigeria Air (after having identified the first three aircraft) will now finalize all necessary Operation Manuals and then go through the inspection and approval process of NCAA.

“This OBC is the milestone for the preferred Bidder Consortium and has been met by the submitted business plan of the preferred bidder. It is the overall share capital of around $300 million, provided by the preferred bidder that will launch Nigeria Air to its full size of 30 aircraft and international operation within the next two years.

“No further FGN funding will be provided above the 5% share capital of the next national Carrier of Nigeria, which was provided to launch Nigeria Air”, he explained.

The Minister further noted that less than 400 million naira has been spent so far on the project and not billions as earlier reported in the media.

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