The Ministry of Aviation with full support of the Presidency has concluded plans to float a new national carrier in partnership with one of Europe’s mega carriers, which name government is still keeping to its chest.
The mega carrier, which presently operates into the country is to provide technical support that would include maintenance, infrastructure, training of pilots, engineers and other technical personnel and route development.
The ownership structure will have zero government control in terms of management and equity holding but its controlling shares would be owned by Nigeria, who will become stakeholders through the sale of Initial Public Offer (IPO), while the partner airline would have management control and 49 per cent stake holding.
Special Adviser (Media) to the Minister of Aviation, Joe Obi, confirmed to THISDAY that the proposed national carrier would be wholly privately owned and would operate in partnership with an international airline.
He explained that it might be entirely new airline with foreign partnership or an existing one that can emerge as a national carrier “but what is clear now is that government will not play any role in its ownership and control. It will be owned by Nigerians through IPO, although the template of that is still being worked on.”
But THISDAY learnt that government was no more considering building up a domestic airline into a national carrier because of the inherent problem of such arrangement, which include the initial owner insisting on having some control and possibly sabotaging the new plan.
An industry operator who spoke to THISDAY said that government had changed its initial plan due to the recent development in the industry and would float an entirely new airline with foreign partnership that would manage the national carrier, train Nigerian personnel and contribute to the development and expansion of the curriculum at the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria.
“This is long overdue. This country needs at least two or three major flag carriers to be able to meet Nigeria’s aspirations. Many airlines coming to Nigeria are not reciprocated. It was Nigeria Airways that opened Lagos, Dubai route. We need to give most of these airlines that operate into the country a challenge. National carrier is inevitable and Nigerians now believe that it is long overdue,” the source said.
Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Keechi Uko, recently observed the need to have a national carrier in Nigeria.
“Nigeria cannot be the centre of African diplomacy without effective airline. It is impossible for Nigeria to lead Africa without a national carrier. It is impossible. Unfortunately we have diplomats that understand diplomacy but do not understand the extensions of diplomacy.
“We have aviation people that only understand aviation but they do not understand the travel and diplomatic import of aviation. So they are experts of their own nuclear environment but they do not understand the interdependency of these things.”