Nigeria: Disquiet Over ‘Selection’ of Core Investor for Nigeria Air

There is disquiet in the aviation industry over the purported selection of Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest aviation group, as the technical partner/core investors for the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, Daily Trust can report.

While the Ministry of Aviation is yet to officially react to the news, our correspondent reliably gathered that there was no conclusive process suggesting that ET has been adopted.

Daily Trust reports that the federal government had in June said the national carrier would commence operation with two leased aircraft amidst doubts from stakeholders over the feasibility of the proposal.

Nigeria Air had secured its Air Transport Licence (ATL) in June preparatory to the acquisition of the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) which would enable it to commence flight operations.

However, the proposed commencement of the airline, it was learnt, has been stalled by the delay in finding a technical partner/core investor that would buy the 49 per cent stake in the airline.

It would be recalled that the government after reserving 49 percent for technical partners said it would have five per cent in the proposed airline while Nigerian investors would enjoy the remaining 46 per cent equity.

But as of the time of filing this report, the identity of the core investors/technical partner is unknown as speculations emerged that Ethiopian Airlines has been selected.

Our correspondent learnt that several global airlines including Ethiopian Airlines were on the radar and a due diligence is still being carried out.

A highly placed source privy to the national carrier’s programme said the news about ET being selected as technical partner is “fake,” adding that, “The truth is that a due diligence exercise has been carried out on them in accordance with the government PPP (Public Private Partnership) process for selecting a preferred bidder.”

It was gathered that the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, would brief the media on the ongoing process later this week.

Despite the denial, industry stakeholders said any airline that would compete with Nigeria Air on the designated Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) routes would not be appropriate.

An aviation analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu, said, “We don’t need any airline that is competing with us on the BASA routes as technical partners but technical partners could still come from countries such as Canada, and Australia; not necessarily from EU, US, ME or Far East.

“We have never found good partnerships with airlines on the BASA routes; the past partnerships with the KLM and the SA Airlines yielded bad results. We should look elsewhere. Even if it must come from the EU and the US, it must not be among our competitors on the BASA routes.”

When contacted, Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the Minister, Dr James Odaudu, said, “We would make a formal announcement this week.”


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