Unveiling of Nigeria Air: Desperation Taken too Far

Unveiling of Nigeria Air: Desperation Taken too Far

By- Opeyemi Glory Aregbesola

When the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announced in March 2023 that before the end of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Nigeria Air will commence operations, well-meaning Nigerians were enthusiastic about the unveiling of the nation’s 1st national carrier after the collapse of the Nigerian Airways.

However, some industry experts expressed concerns on the feasibility of the minister’s declaration considering that all modalities needed for the commencement of operations had yet to be put in place.

Their concern has, however, been justified with the latest revelation that the hurried unveiling of the Nigeria Air on May 26 by Sirika was a sham.

While being grilled by the Senate Committee on Aviation on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, Dapo Olumide, the acting Managing Director of the Nigeria Air, said the aircraft was chartered from Ethiopian Airline for the purpose of unveiling the logo.

He said that the airline had yet to secure an operating license for full flight operations, noting that the processes were still in the early stages.

Olumide said that aircraft was used pending the completion of the processes required for the operation of the airline.

He said his mandate was to secure an air operating certificate for the airline not necessarily to operate the airline but to secure a licence to fly.

His words, “The aircraft that came in and left was a legitimate charter flight.

“Anyone of us here if we have a destination wedding in Senegal, we can charter an aircraft.

“You don’t need to have license to do that, you just charter an aircraft, an aircraft you paid for it, it will be brought here, take your passengers and off you go.

“And that is what we did. But in this case, it was to unveil the Logo of Nigeria Air.

“Ever since 2018, all you have ever seen about Nigeria Air were pictures, drawings not the real aircraft, and we thought it was time to show what the real aircraft will look like also to let shareholders see.

“We have institutional investors, they are not in aviation but they are putting their money for 10 to 15 years, so they need to see what the actual aircraft will look like.

“So we brought it in here to show them what the aircraft will look like, then the social media dimension came into it.

“For us to get that license which is my mandate, we must among other things have three aircraft before the NCAA will give us a license and those three aircraft must be Nigerian registered aircraft.

“So when this aircraft came on a chartered flight, everybody said we have launched Nigeria Air, there are learned people in the aviation industry who could have countered that when social media came out, but they chose not to.”

Olumide’s defense can best be described as a face-saving tactic considering that the former minister of Aviation clearly stated that “Operation of local and international flights will commence soon. Before the end of this administration, before May 29, we will fly”.

Not only did Sirika play on the intelligence of Nigerians in a bid to have a notable achievement to his name irrespective of the corruption involved, but he also went against a standing court injunction to halt the unveiling of the Nigeria Air.

Little wonder why Nnolim Nnaji, the chairman of the senate committee on aviation expressed the dissatisfaction of the committee with the actions of the former aviation minister, in going ahead to flag off the operations of Nigeria Air without any provision for sustaining the airline’s operations.

The legislator said a careful review of the process indicated the exercise to be highly opaque, shrouded in secrecy, shoddy and capable of ridiculing and tarnishing the image of Nigeria before the international community.

“Looking at the total amount required to fully start the airline, which is put at $250,000,000, the Nigerian government and its citizenry can raise these funds without necessarily subjecting itself to the ridicule we have been exposed to by this recent episode,” Nnaji said.

On its part, the House of Representatives has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to constitute a high-level presidential committee to undertake a holistic review of the process of the Nigeria Air project.

Reviewing the process of the Nigeria Air Project is fair enough but the sham unveiling which has put the country in disrepute in the International community should not be taken with a pinch of salt. Everyone involved in the scam should be prosecuted to act as a deterrent to others. This is desperation taken too far!

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