Mr Richard Branson
By Chinedu Eze
Stakeholders in the aviation industry have reacted to a statement credited to the
Chairman of Virgin Atlantic and major stakeholder in the former Virgin Nigeria Airways, which is now Air Nigeria, Mr Richard Branson, who said last week that he would never do business in Nigeria. He was reported to have also described Nigerian politicians as dream killers.
His comment has elicited many reactions from Nigeria and many fear that his views would discourage foreign investors who may want to do business in the country.
Nuhu Imam Adam, an aviation key stakeholder who was the Head of Government Relations in the then Virgin Nigeria, said he strongly believed that the so called technocrats rather than the politicians should be blamed for unnecessary interferences which hitherto brought a number of businesses to their toes.
Adam recalled it was the report submitted to him by technocrats and the Ministry of Aviation that prompted the former President, the late Umar Yar’adua to take a nationalistic position and ordered the immediate relocation of Virgin Nigeria domestic operations from the international terminal for alleged security reasons.
Adam’s therefore remarked that his former boss (Branson) was wrong to blanket politicians as dream killers, whereas, the so-called technocrats and opportunistic special advisers were the ones who should be held responsible for the calamities befalling the aviation industry.
"May the soul of former President Umar Musa Yar'adua rest in peace. The former leader asked repeatedly, What are the security reasons? But he had to carry out the recommendations of the report to move Air Nigeria from Murtala Mohammed International Airport terminal, which was a budding hub for the airline’s sub-regional operations,” Adam recalled.
According to Adam, "Such comment coming from a renowned world successful entrepreneur was a big dent on the image of Nigeria and it would go a long way in discouraging potential foreign direct investors who may want to do business in Nigeria."
Branson in his statement was reacting to security reports from the Federal Government which said that it was not safe for Virgin Nigeria to continue its operations of domestic services at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport and forced the promising airline to move to the newly completed domestic terminal, known as MMA2.
Adam said that the decision remained a questionable one because in other parts of the world both international and domestic passengers can use the same airport facility for passenger convenience as long as proper security measures are taken and such security measures were not alien to Nigeria at the time the airline was asked to move its operations.
“Today, is the Nnamdi Azikwe international airport in Abuja not servicing domestic, regional and international passenger interest which the Lagos airport was designed for? Are Nigerians not aware that MMA2 was configured for both regional and domestic operations due to the dollar component of passenger service charge revenue?”
The former Government Relations Manager said that it was that forced movement that laid the foundation to the airline’s demise because shortly after the move it started having problems.
He said that it was also on record that Branson wanted to invest about $600 million into the airline before government took the decision to force it from its operational base.