The dream of having a national airline that could compete with other mega carriers will soon materialise as the Federal Government has concluded plans to set up a global airline.
Although, the name of the new company is not yet known, the carrier will start operations with an initial take-off grant of $1 billion while another $1 billion is expected to be spent over four years on rebuilding old airport terminals and constructing new ones.
Also, the government is in talks with one of the biggest carriers, British Airways, to recommend strategic partners for the proposed national carrier.
New Telegraph learnt that some other airlines decline to be strategic partners following the manner the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, went about the establishment of the botched Nigerian Eagle airline.
Many Nigerians, especially industry stakeholders, were pessimistic when the Federal Government through Oduah announced that Nigeria would float a new national carrier. A source close to British Airways who sought not to be identified confirmed the plans for a new national airline for the country.
The source stated that the proposed airline “will be commercially run unlike what we had in the past when government through the Ministry of Aviation had no idea of how to run an airline or set up one.”
Oduah’s successor, Mr. Osita Chidoka, yesterday in New York confirmed that Nigeria was holding talks with private investors on setting up a new flag-carrier as it set to expand airport infrastructure.
Chidoka, in an interview with Bloomberg TV Africa to be aired on Friday, said Nigeria would spend about $2 billion over four years on rebuilding old airport terminals and constructing new ones to meeting the rising demand for travel.
“The government wants to start a national carrier within the same period to tap growth. It will be commercially run. Conversations are on across many possible private sector organisations, both local airlines in Nigeria and then some international airlines.
“We are totally changing the face of four key airports. Nigeria is studying the possibility of attracting private capital to do that,” he added. He explained that the government is also building 13 cargo airports nationwide for the export of perishable agricultural produce such as pineapples, mangoes and tomatoes.
N igeria has been having problems sustaining a national carrier since it liquidated Nigeria Airways in 2003 and replaced it with Virgin Nigeria, a joint venture in which Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited originally held a 49 per cent stake.
The airline changed its name to Air Nigeria in 2010 after Branson pulled out and it ceased flying two years ago Lagos-based Arik Air Ltd., a closely held company, is now Nigeria’s largest carrier with 26 aircraft, according to its website. Competitors include Aero Contractors Ltd.,
Dana Air, Med-View Airline Ltd. and Overland Airways Ltd. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, signed a $500 million loan agreement last year with the Export- Import Bank of China to fund new terminals in four cities, Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano.
The contract was won by China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. Chidoka, at another occasion yesterday stated that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has built local and international investors’ confidence in the aviation sector. The minister, who just returned from the United States where he went to collect certificate for Category One country in air safety, stated this in his independence message.
According to a statement from the ministry’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. James Odaudu the minister assured Nigerians and the international community of a continuously improving security and safety of air travellers as the nation celebrates the 54th anniversary of its existence as a sovereign independent state.