Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has said Nigeria Air, the country’s proposed national carrier, would begin operations before the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration on May 29.
The Minister spoke at the national aviation stakeholders forum 2023 in Abuja on Thursday.
In October 2022, Buhari had said the national carrier would commence flight services by December 2022, but that did not happen due to controversy surrounding the airline’s ownership structure, leading to a court order stopping the federal government from implementing the project.
Speaking at the stakeholder forum, Sirika said the latest deadline is another proposed date for the take-off of Nigeria Air.
According to him, the project is 98 percent completed.
“All of the roadmap items except, perhaps the airline which in my opinion is at 98 percent completion, and we will fly within these remaining two months by the grace of God,” the minister said.
“We will also finish the concessions. So, all those things we said we would do when we came in, we did them.
“Before the end of this administration, before May 29th, we will fly.”
Speaking on the bidding process of the Nigeria Air project, Sirika said he had hoped Emirate, Lufthansa, and Qatar airlines would emerge as the preferred bidders.
However, he said he was pleased that the Ethiopian Airlines (ET) consortium eventually emerged the winner.
The minister explained that, except for Overland Airways, he approached international and domestic airlines about partnering with Nigeria Air.
“When we were setting up Nigeria Air limited, my gut feeling is to partner with airlines that I think will add value, with financial experience and high profile such as Emirate, Qatar, Lufthansa, and the rest of them,” he said.
“Those who worked closely with me know that this is my forecast and what I wanted because I believe if you partner with Lufthansa for example, automatically you will have license to fly.
“I thought we would do that, and I made attempts to reach them and invite them, as I did with all airline owners in Nigeria, except Overland.
“I reached out to them personally to come and partner to create a strong airline but fast forward, we had a bidder, Ethiopian airline.
“I was very happy that we got them (Ethiopian) to come. It was not my choice but I am happy now knowing what I know.
“They are a household name, strong, and they have been in business for 70 years unbroken and they have over 200 aircraft.
“So, I am very glad we are partnering with them and it is a reality.
“Some airlines are in court and their grouse is that it can be any airline in the world but not Ethiopian because, in their own way, they think Ethiopian is a competitor.”