Qatar Airways Seeks to Partner FG on National Carrier

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By Chinedu Eze
There are indications that Qatar Airways is willing to offer aircraft and funds as core investor in the planned national carrier by the federal government of Nigeria.
THISDAY learnt that the federal government  might be inclined to partnering with the Middle East carrier on the project.
Qatar Airways Company Q.C.S.C.,  operating as Qatar Airways, is a state-owned flag carrier of Qatar headquartered in the Qatar Airways Tower in Doha.
The airline operates a hub-and-spoke network, linking over 150 international destinations across Africa, Central Asia, Europe, Far East, South Asia, Middle East, North America, South America and Oceania from its base at Hamad International Airport, using a fleet of more than 200 aircraft.
Qatar Airways Group employs more than 43,000 people. The carrier has been a member of the Oneworld alliance since October 2013, the first Gulf carrier to sign with one of the three airline alliances.
Industry consultant and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe who confirmed the commitment of Qatar Airways to partner with Nigeria on the national carrier project, noted that there are other highly rated airlines like Korea Air, Etihad, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and many others Nigeria could partner with.
Ethiopia Airlines had also expressed its readiness to partner with Nigeria on the project, saying anytime Nigeria is ready, it would be willing to partner with the country to realize that goal of having a national airline.
The Managing Director of Ethiopian Airlines International Operations, Esayas Hailu, had said the airline was willing to partner with Nigeria and noted that Nigeria needs a national airline by its sheer size and travelling public.
But Aligbe noted that although the N47 billion earmarked for the project by the federal government may look big,  in dollar terms it was about $111 million, which could not even buy one large-body double isle aircraft.
“AfreximBank said it is prepared to provide $300 million that might be required for the project but there must be evidence of government input, which was why government had to earmark the aforesaid sum in the budget,” he added.
Aligbe, also confirmed that the government had resolved that it won’t have more than five per cent stake in the new national airline and expressed optimism that once a major international carrier is appointed as the airline’s technical adviser the private sector would invest in the project.
He said Qatar Airways may stick with the whole processes and might succeed to become core investor for the national airline.
The federal government had approved N47 billion for the take off of Nigeria Air.
Hadi Sirika, former minister of state for aviation had said the fund for the take of the national carrier project had been provided in the 2019 budget passed by the National Assembly recently.
Sirika had said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) be provided for the Nigeria Air Project which was suspended eight months ago.
He had said: “President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) for the project be provided for in the 2019 Appropriation; which the National Assembly has graciously done. I assure the general public, and more importantly, the prospective partners and investors, that Nigeria Air project is fully alive and on course.”
It was gathered that the VGF is $155 million.
Sirika had on Monday, March 25, said plans were underway by the federal government to revisit the national carrier project.
The minister made this known while defending the ministry’s budget before the Senate committee on aviation in Abuja.