Lagos, Nigeria – The recent suspension of the Nigeria Air project has stirred the waters of controversy in the nation’s aviation sector. The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace, Mr. Festus Keyamo, made the announcement, citing the need for a thorough investigation into the Nigeria Air concession scandal. This move has garnered both support and criticism from various quarters.
- Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation, has suspended the Nigeria Air project.
- The suspension comes amid allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
- The project was to be a joint venture between the Nigerian government and Ethiopia Airlines.
- The suspension has been met with mixed reactions, with some supporting the decision and others criticizing it.
Nigeria Air was first announced in 2018, signaling Nigeria’s ambition to revamp its aviation sector. The project was introduced with much fanfare by the former aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, just days before the culmination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure. The project was unveiled five years ago at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK.
The initial cost of the Nigeria Air project was estimated at a whopping $3 billion. To date, the government has invested approximately $100 million in the venture. However, the project has been riddled with delays and controversies, casting a shadow over its viability and future.
The ownership structure of Nigeria Air is unique. The Ministry of Finance Incorporated oversees the Federal Government’s 5% ownership. Ethiopia Airlines, the venture’s strategic partner, owns the majority, or 49%. This partnership, however, has raised eyebrows and sparked debate among Nigerian aviation stakeholders.
While some believe in the potential of Nigeria Air and see the government’s involvement as a positive sign, others are skeptical. They argue that the government should completely withdraw from the project. The 9th House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, led by Nnolim Nnaji, has been vocal in its criticism, labeling the Nigeria Air project a “scam.”
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), representing local airlines, has also expressed its reservations. They’ve taken their concerns to the courts, challenging the government’s decision to move forward with the Nigeria Air proposal.
Group Captain John Ojikutu, an aviation expert, shared his perspective in a recent interview. He emphasized that the government should prioritize the safety and security of airlines over operations. He questioned the rationale behind having a national carrier, suggesting that it might not be in the nation’s best interest. Instead, he proposed that the government focus on flagship couriers and address the mismanagement of funds in the aviation sector.
Others in the sector shared Ojikutu’s concerns. Alex Nwuba, an aviation analyst, urged the government to scrutinize the Nigeria Air Project meticulously. He highlighted the need to clarify issues related to ownership, costs, and the overall benefits to the nation.
Olumide Ohunayo, the General Secretary of the Aviation Roundtable, pointed out that the current form of Nigeria Air might not serve the national interest. He believes that Nigeria should seek an international partner outside Africa to tap into the country’s vast aviation market potential.
Eze Onyekpere, the director of the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), took a more critical stance. He asserted that Nigeria Air never truly existed and accused the former Minister of deceiving Nigerians. He called for accountability and urged that the former Minister be held responsible for any financial discrepancies.
The suspension of the Nigeria Air project is undeniably a significant blow to Nigeria’s aviation sector. With the project’s future hanging in the balance, the nation awaits the outcome of the investigations. The coming months will be crucial in determining the direction of Nigeria’s aviation ambitions.