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Nigeria Air gets licence for schedule flight, delays start of operations

4 months ago
Herald News
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*95% shareholders unknown as Nigeria Air gets Air Transport License

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, on Monday announced that the Nigeria Air Limited has received an Air Transport License (ATL) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Nigeria Air was proposed as the nation’s national carrier which was unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England on July 18, 2018.

The project was put on hold two months after it was announced. This followed barrage of criticism over its relevance and sustainability. The proposed airline was expected to gulp $8.8 million preliminary cost and $300 million as take-off cost.

It would be recalled that Nigeria’s defunct carrier, Nigeria Airways, collapsed due to corruption and poor management. But the Nigerian government dismissed all concerns raised, saying the airline would begin operation before the end of 2018, following President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to establish a national airline during his 2015 electioneering campaign.

Six months ago, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved April 2022 as the commencement date for the operations of the country’s national carrier, Nigeria Air.

“Nigeria Air Limited received from Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) an Air Transport License (ATL), signalling the end of the beginning of operations of the Airline. Commencement date of domestic operations will be announced in due course,” Mr Sirika tweeted on Monday.

95% shareholders unknown as Nigeria Air gets Air Transport License

The federal government is intensifying efforts to deliver the much anticipated national carrier, the Nigeria Air, before the expiration of the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, which is now less than a year to come to its end.

The efforts saw the airline receiving a major certification from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Air Transport License (ATL). 

This certificate means Nigeria Air has complied with the preliminary regulatory conditions thus can now proceed to complete the entire certification process to be awarded the Air Operating Certificate (AOC), without which Nigeria Air cannot independently operate flights. 

Reports indicated that Nigeria Air is part of the new aviation roadmap being implemented by this government which it has assured will take off next month.

But other operators expressed doubt about the airline taking off in July, citing the rigorous steps involved in the acquisition of AOC which they all went through.

The AOC involves five stages and one of the stages involves over 50-hour demonstration flights across its proposed network with the airline’s registered aircraft. The Minister of Aviation has expressed determination to float the airline despite missing several targets for its take-off.

From the unveiling of the livery, logo and name of the airline in June 2018, to the suspension of the project by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in the same year, the Minister has assured that the much awaited airline would take off before the end of Muhammadu Buhari’s government. The Minister had said the airline would begin operation in April and later the commencement date was shifted to July and disclosed recently that the airline would be private sector driven with the government having a five per cent stake.

The Director Director-General, NCAA Capt. Musa Nuhu presented the certificate to the Interim management of the airline led by its CEO, Mr. Dapo Olumide on Monday in Abuja.

Presenting the Certificate, the NCAA DG, Capt. Nuhu said, “the ATL process is one of the certificates required towards scheduled passenger operations and a big step towards the processing of the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) which is ongoing.”

He reiterated that the NCAA doesn’t give preference to prospective airlines in granting the certificate regardless of whether it’s a government airline or private airline.

“We work with everybody. We are the regulator. We work with the public sector and the private sector. We support everybody either currently existing or aspiring,” he stated. He also welcomed the Nigeria Air initiative.

In his remarks after receiving the certificate, Mr. Olumide said, “the objective of this national airline and the reason President Buhari insisted on us having such a thing was because we need to restore pride to Nigeria outside the country. We need to re-instil in the minds of people that Nigeria can do it. We want more people to have access to Nigeria and more people from Nigeria to go out of this country. When you have a national airline, you have the ability to deploy capacity to different routes and it’s not about revenue but it’s about exposure,” he noted. 

He said some of his team are already abroad sourcing for best deals on the aircraft they will deploy for Nigeria Air. 

He also said the national carrier because of the capacity will leverage the over 80 Bilateral Air Service (BASA) Agreements to access more routes and access more possibilities thus, creating employment opportunities down the value chain.

An aviation analyst and Chief Executive Officer of Top Brass Airline, Capt. Roland Iyayi however noted that it would be abnormal for the airline to get an AOC next month to kick-start operation, recalling that it took him 18 months to get the AOC after acquiring the ATL.

He said, “The fact of the matter is that if the Civil Aviation Authority can indicate upfront that by next month they would have an AOC, I would expect that same concession to be extended to all individuals or operators who want to procure the AOC because from my personal experience, I got AOC 18 months after the ATL and we had all our requisite documentation and aircraft before we were granted.

“So, how is it possible that the process is going to be shortened from 18 which was my experience to one month? That to me is something that is abnormal. So let’s wait and see exactly what they want to do.”

Another analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu, sought clarification on the airline, asking if it is a government carrier or private operator.

He said, “Who are the shareholders, especially the major shareholders that are supposed to have majority shares of 95% if the government is having just 5% shares? Why are we not hearing from the other shareholders? Are we having a national carrier or government carrier?”

As developments continue to unfold, experts are of the view that government must come clean and be open in the build up to the establishment of new national airline.

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