Nigeria Air will commence operations in October - Ethiopian Airlines CEO
Nigeria Air


The quest by the immediate past administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari to force a national air carrier on the nation has continued to falter, Business Hallmark finding has revealed.

The latest obstacle on the path of the hastily conceived national carrier, Nigeria Air, is coming from an unexpected quarters, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), a supposedly government owned agency.

The civil aviation regulator, BH gathered, rejected the application by the handlers of Nigeria Air to proceed to Phase Two in the process of obtaining its air operators certificate (AOC) at the weekend.

According to a letter by NCAA to Nigeria Air dated June 2, 2023 obtained by our correspondent late Friday night, the regulator said the certification process cannot progress to the next stage.

“The authority is in receipt of your letter dated May 25, 2023, on the above subject matter.

“Quite contrary to our earlier letter of 16th May 2023, which enumerated the documents to be submitted with the formal application form OPS 002, your letter of request to proceed to Phase Two has no inclusion of a formal application form and the necessary documents referenced in the formal application form.

“Hence, the certification process cannot progress to Phase Two without these required documents. Please be reminded that your post holders’ letters of commitment to Nigeria Air have a tenure of three months and as such expire now”, NCAA said in the letter that seemed to have finally sealed the fate of the controversial airline.

According to a source in NCAA, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the implication of the letter is dire for Nigeria Air.

“The new airline, except a miracle happens, is as good as dead. Normally, a holders’ letters of commitment normally lasts for three months.

“One was given to Nigeria Air in late February and it expired at the end of May without its handlers utilizing it.

“What this means is that Nigeria Air has to apply all over again for another holders’ letters of commitment to set up an airline.

“But from what I’ve heard, it had been concluded that the airline will never take into the air, at least in the present form its visioners had packaged it.

“According to the information at my disposal, the new administration is not favourably disposed to the airline, but in order to avoid clashing with the past administration, the foxy Tinubu decided to play along.

“As you can see, the letter to abort the process was prepared and signed on Friday by NCAA, barely four days after the new administration assumed office.

“From what I heard from my immediate boss, the NCAA DG was summoned to the presidential villa earlier in the week, where he was ordered to stall the approval process for the airline, though in a tidy manner. The holders’ letters of commitment was just a lacuna activated to achieve the order without raising dust.

“So in essence, the aftermath of that presidential order is what culminated in Friday’s letter”, the source disclosed.

The former aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, and some powerful forces in the Buhari administration, several sources in the aviation sector informed, had planned to make the hastily set up airline a fait accompli by smuggling into the country a newly repainted plane borrowed from Ethiopian Airlines in the afternoon of Friday, May 26, 2023 for it to be officially launched for operations by Buhari.

However, the rush to acquire a borrowed plane and rushing to commission it has failed to alter the negative fortunes of the ill-fated airline. Hardly had the euphoria and criticisms that trailed the launching of the aircraft died down than a major scandal over its true ownership broke in the media.

Several media outlets had alleged that the airplane actually belonged to Ethiopian Airlines and was only repainted in Nigerian colours and flown into the country on the eve of its launch to fool Nigerians and to justify the huge resources already spent by the government.

Armed with the plane’s registration, Mode and serial numbers of ET-APL, S Q4005C and 40965/4075 respectively, while still sitting on the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on May 26, BH decided to conduct its own findings.

The first anomaly noticed was the plane’s registration number, ET-APL, boldly written on its tail. Based on the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as the Chicago Convention), all civil aircraft are required to have a unique code clearly marked on their exterior.

According to the Chicago Convention, the code (registration) must indicate the aircraft’s country of registration. An aircraft registration is a code unique to a single aircraft required by international convention to be marked on the exterior of every civil aircraft. The registration indicates the aircraft’s country of registration like a vehicle license plate.

Planes owned and registered in Nigeria, apart from displaying the compulsory N alphabet (shortened for Nigeria), also carry one digit number and three alphabets. For instance, two aircraft in the fleet of Air Peace, Boeing 737-300 and 733-500 are numbered 5N-BQO and 5N-BQQ respectively, while Boeing 737-400 and 733-500 belonging to Aero Contractor bear 5N-BjA and 5N-BKQ.

Meanwhile, the aircraft that was flown into the country on May 26 from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, bears ET-APL, a short form for Ethiopian Airlines.

A further check on the website of world’s most renowned live flight tracker, ‘’, Live Flight Tracker – Real-Time Flight Tracker Map | Flightradar24, showed the Boeing 737-800 aircraft left Abuja for Addis Ababa 10.30pm Friday night and landed in Addis at exactly 2.40am, a 4hour 10 minutes journey.

Live Flight Tracker – Real-Time Flight Tracker Map | Flightradar24
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Data obtained from showed that after leaving Nigeria on the night of Friday, May 26, the plane was back in action on Wednesday, May 31st, flying the Addis Ababa- Mogadishu route, but this time in Ethiopian Airline’s flag and colours. The plane, meanwhile, seemed to have been permanently deployed on the Addis to Mogadishu route, with it completing about 12 trips between Wednesday and Friday, June 2nd.

When BH checked on Friday around 10pm on Friday, the aircraft was on its way back to Addis Ababa after making an afternoon trip to Mogadishu earlier in the day..

Before its journey to Nigeria on Friday, May 26th, the aircraft was deployed to the Addis Ababa – Tel Aviv (Israel) and Addis Ababa-Beirut (Lebanon) routes.

For instance, on May 19, the aircraft serviced the Beirut route twice. A day later, it first flew to the Somalian capital of Mogadishu before departing for Beirut. After Wednesday, May 24, record showed that the aircraft was no longer in operation.

A source in the aviation industry confided in our correspondent that the plane must have been pulled from flying duty to allow the tedious transformation to the colours of Nigeria Air, which he claimed took two full days to be accomplished.

“The former minister of aviation had pressurised the management of Ethiopian Airlines to help provide an aircraft that would be presented to Nigerians, as an aircraft belonging to Nigeria Air.

“The airline had no option than to yield to the pressure, but made its own demands that the cost must be born by Nigeria.

“It was after the agreement that the plane was recalled from the Addis Ababa/Mogadishu and Addis Ababa/Beirut routes for it to be rebranded into Nigerian colours.

“The whole thing is no more than a deceit, an absolute fraud. So I am not surprised that NCAA decided to deny it the approval needed to proceed to the next level of authorisation”, said the source. The total cost of botched effort to create the airline is out at about two billion naira.

The Buhari administration, it would be recalled, had immediately after assuming office in May 2015, assured Nigerians that it planned to set up a befitting national carrier to replace the defunct Nigerian Airways.

The government took a bold step forward in 2018 when it stormed the Farnborough Air Show in England with a strong delegation led by the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to sell the airline to investors. However, the lofty but controversial idea soon ran into stormy waters with the way it was being set up by its handlers.

Apart from facing regulatory challenges, the embattled airline is also battling several legal battles, especially from local airlines under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), who are against the alleged handpicking of Ethiopian Airlines, which has a stake of 49% share in the airline.

The aggrieved local operators kicked against the shutting out of their members from the bidding process, maintaining that the process did not pass through normal process and that the preferred bidder was handpicked.

They also argued that the decision to allow Ethiopian Airlines to operate local routes would drive many of them out of business.

On November 15, 2022, AON secured an injunction from a Federal High Court, Lagos, restraining the Federal government from selling Nigeria Air shares to Ethiopian Airlines.

Speaking on the development, an aviation expert, Captain Babatunde George, explained that the protracted legal action instituted by AON members against the bidding process that led to the emergence of Ethiopian Airlines as the preferred bidder for the national carrier, frustrated the last administration’s plot to force down the deal on Nigeria.

“But for AON, Nigeria will have entered into another problematic venture like the Nigeria/Virgin Atlantic deal during the Obasanjo administration.

“Some forces in the presidency promoting Nigeria Air never believe Tinubu will succeed Buhari. So, they decided to see out the suit against the airline in court. But after Tinubu’s emergence as a presidential candidate and president in June 2022 and March 2023, they decided to hasten the process.

“Unfortunately, time caught up on them. And from feelers we are getting, the new president is not favourably disposed to the new airline. That’s what brought about the shenanigans we witnessed on May 26. But I doubt it will stand”, Captain George stated.

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