FG Begins Negotiation for Acquisition of Aircraft for National Carrier


Chinedu Eze

The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, announced Tuesday that the federal government has started negotiation for the acquisition of aircraft that would be used to run the planned national carrier.

The new airline will be unveiled Wednesday at the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom.

According to a tweet made by the minister from his tweeter handle, @hadisirika, a committee on the national carrier project, which is headed by him, has met with officials of Airbus and Boeing, to discuss aircraft orders for the national carrier.

Sirika said that he hoped to meet with other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to order for different aircraft sizes for different routes and distances for the new carrier.

The minister said he had earlier met with Standard Chartered Bank to discuss funding for the aircraft acquisition.

But industry experts, who reacted to the level of discussion with the aircraft manufacturing companies, expressed reservation about the timeliness of the delivery of the equipment.

They said that when aircraft are ordered, the manufacturers need time to manufacture them.

They noted that manufacturers do not keep aircraft on ground and sell them like cars but are produced for airlines and others that make firm order and back their order with payment for the aircraft.

A Nigerian operator, who had acquired new aircraft in the past, explained to THISDAY that when aircraft are ordered, they are manufactured for the customer, but in the interim, “Boeing and Airbus may facilitate a possible leasing of aircraft for the national airline, depending on what the minister agrees with them.”

However, Sirika has not given details on how the airline would start operation after it has been unveiled but had earlier said that the new carrier would start with five aircraft that would be delivered on December 19, 2018.

Reacting to the minister’s tweet announcing the negotiation, some Nigerians commended the federal government and the minister.

They expressed happiness that Nigeria would once again have a national carrier that would buoy the aviation industry, create jobs and put the country in a higher pedestal in global air transport.

Baba Shehu, @Bsterab1 said: “Goal getter. That’s very exciting. It’s long overdue. The agony of going through other people’s territories (when travelling out of the country) is just unbearable. More important is the management team that would manage it. All the best. May Allah make it easy for us.”

But some other Nigerians expressed doubt about the viability of the project, recognising that some fundamentals are yet to take place, like procedures and processes for the airline, establishment of offices and recruitment of staff.

They wondered whether these could be completed in less than six months to the target date of operation.

A commentator, @yaraduagroup in reaction to the announcement by the minister said: “It is called ‘destructive corruption’. The leadership carries out monumental spending on non-viable projects just so that they can have a channel to get money into their pockets. Why would a rational thinking leadership do this at this point?”

Many other Nigerians who reacted to the minister’s tweet urged him to ensure government paid the severance package for the ex-Nigeria Airways workers before establishing another national carrier.