For many years, some Nigerians who work in the aviation sector have been the ones campaigning against a National Carrier, saying the nation cannot afford one, based on the disastrous previous experiences.
Their main argument in most cases is that, government has no business in doing business. They also often said that government should leave the most critical piece of business in the hands of the private sector players which overtime have also proved incompetent; but can rather only function as errant boys to their expatriates’ counterpart.
To show how myopic the so called Nigerian professionals in the aviation sector think, the industry should be left in the hands of current players who at best can only muster between three to five aircrafts in their fleets to serve the 180 million people.
Many of them also forgot to take into consideration the security, nationalism, economic and empowerment of young Nigerians that may have wanted to work in the many aspects of the aviation sector that the lack of a national airline has robbed of today.
Also like in most other sectors of our national economy, the Nigeria aviation professionals are nothing, but economic saboteurs. It is unimaginable for any right thinking person to kick against a national airlines just because of the fear of possible failure.
If Ethiopia, with its Ethiopian Airlines, a national carrier of that country that is wholly owned by the government can be effective, efficient and profitable; I think the aviation industry in Nigeria must be ashamed of itself.
The likes of Kenya Airways, Egypt Air, RwandAir, Royal Air Maroc and others despite the challenges of running an airline are still operational, Nigeria has no reason to give up in having one.
The recent announcement by the Federal Executive Council [FEC] and approval of advisers that would help chart a path for a new national airline is a welcome development..
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika Sirika who briefed newsmen at the end of the FEC meeting recently said N1.5billion was approved for the projects, which would kick-start activities in the transportation and aviation industry.
According to him, the contracts were awarded to Messrs Lufthansa Consulting/ TN Aero FGE, for the national carrier; Messrs Arrow for Aviation Leasing Company and MRO; Messrs Infrata Dantens for the concession of airports; and JEBB was also appointed for the Aerotropolis and Agro Cargo Terminals.
The minister had also said the four most viable airports [Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano] will be concessioned thereafter.
A national carrier for the country would in no small measure help Nigeria reciprocate most of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement [BASA] with many nations.
For now, all the BASA agreements signed by Nigeria favours other countries due in part to the fact that she doesn’t own a national carrier. In 2015, Nigeria penned 15 BASA agreements and has signed over 78 so far and just a handful is reciprocated by Nigeria.
The agreement is lopsided. With a national carrier, Nigeria can reciprocate these agreements.
Since foreign exchange is scarce in Nigeria today, the government of the day will tremendously appreciate all avenues to earn it with the establishment of the national carrier.
In establishing of the carrier, majority of the stake in the airline will be privately owned while the role of government will be largely supervisory and regulatory.
Emirates, Etihad, and South African airways et al are among internationally recognized airlines in the world. Each airline is a symbol of national pride for their respective nations.
Citizens of these countries always want to associate themselves with their airlines.
It is also a source of good international relations. Nigeria and Nigerians will feel this way if and when a National Career- Air Nigeria is established.
The erratic and indiscriminate change in airfares experienced with private airlines will not be applicable to Nigeria’s national carrier.
The air fares will be affordable for every Nigerian and airfares will remain stable.
Just as mentioned above, opposition to the floating of a national airline comes from airline operators. Their opposition to it is understandable because of the serious competition it would pose to their operations. But many see it as a wake-up call for the existing airlines to improve their services and allow them to think out of the box.
They hinted that national carrier is going out of fashion in this industry as it has been demonstrated in many quarters. To them, National carriers succeed in countries where corruption is tightly managed as shown in the case of Ethiopian Airways. Many Nigerian operators lack the skill and financial muscle to compete even with the least airline in the continents.
Their situation is not helped by myriads of impediments that have constrained them from giving world class services. However, beyond the sad saga of the Nigeria Airways, the renewed initiative for a national carrier for Nigeria, experts say is a positive development that offers potentially significant dividends to the country.
Presently, the Nigeria aviation sector is still grossly underdeveloped and therefore contributes less than its expected quota to national development if anything at all.