President Muhammadu Buhari recently announced that the country must now have a national air carrier, and directed that plans should begin to establish the carrier.
Before the presidential directive, the country had made attempts recently to re-establish the national carrier, decades after the Nigerian Airways was liquidated, and according to the immediate past minister of aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka, Aero Nigeria Limited had been favoured to become the national carrier.
However, the airline’s financial health was too bad to make the plan fly; it is not clear yet if the Aero plan would be revisited or another airline is being considered but some experts have advised that the president should not involve foreign investors in the project.
They also advised him to activate a series of consultations with investors in the aviation sector and other industry stakeholders to come up with the best plans to execute the project.
The president of Skyjet Aviation Services, Dr Kashim Shetima, calls for caution, saying that establishing a new national airline may not be in the interest of the country, especially as government world over is fast withdrawing from businesses because they have not proven to be good business managers.
He said, “In my own opinion, I think the president needs to be properly briefed on what the current situation is. He needs to hear the truth and nothing but the truth. There should be a stakeholders’ meeting with the president where they he will meet face to face with industry players, such as airline unions, airline operators of Nigeria, and so on.
“Does the president know the cost of running an airline now? Does he know that a national carrier will have to be given subsidy from time to time? Why do we have to re-invent what happened to Nigeria Airways? The president needs to have the forensic audit of why Nigeria airlines are debt ridden before venturing into the business. I hope it is going to be business because aviation is nothing but a business.
This might be a nightmare. In as much as this is a good dream, sentiment must not replace reality like what we have presently in the Nigerian aviation sector.”
Also, another industry investor said that the government needs to first correct “the many anomalies” in the sector which, according to him, have made investment in the sector less attractive and without profits.
He said, “A lot is to be done in this direction. Investing in an airline in Nigeria is a huge risk. I think this is one thing that many people already know. Yes, the government can fund the operations of the national carrier but it should be done profitably. If not, then where’s the justification for running the airline. Government should have its priorities and pursue them closely. The solution to the problems in the sector is a thing of making and implementing the right policies and then the industry would thrive.”
However, others believe that if it is done well, the plan is in the right direction. The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) in reaction to the presidential directive to establish a national carrier said that the existence of a national carrier will lead to a rapid growth of the industry, create jobs and boost the contribution of the sector, which currently contributes only 0.4 per cent, to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
This is compared with the 25 per cent and about 40 per cent which the industry contributes to the South African and Kenyan economies respectively.
Source : Leadership