National carrier: Hope rekindled as FG inks technical deal with Ethiopian Airlines

As conflicting reports continue to trail the proposed new national carrier, Nigeria Air, indications have emerged that the federal government may have finally pitched its tent with the most profitable African airline, Ethiopian Airlines as the technical partner in the packaging of the new airline.

There are indications that Nigeria may have picked Africa’s biggest airline, Ethiopian Airlines as a technical partner for soon-to-be floated Nigeria Air.

Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika

The Minister of Aviation, sources said had flown to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to tidy up loose ends with a view to getting the carrier ready to be unveiled.

The floating of a national carrier is topmost on the agenda of the current administration and one that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika had vigorously pursued.

Under the agreement, Ethiopian Airlines is expected to provide equipment, technical personnel, and management for the new national airline.

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The latest development came after the President Muhamadu Buhari-led government had at inception promised to float another national airline for Nigerians,  two decades after the controversial liquidation of Nigeria Airways.

A source in the Ministry of Aviation told journalists, “Yes, we have selected Ethiopian Airlines. We have agreed to work with the airline, and we are hoping to make the announcement soon”.

“I heard the minister sent some pilots there some time ago for training. But it was ab-initio training. They are also preparing for the training of pilots on Boeing 737 NG aircraft. Ethiopian will provide the technical management,” the source added.

After several attempts to float a national airline had met brick-wall, the appointment of Captain Dapo Olumide as the interim managing director and his team members to package the new airline had rekindled hope.

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According to the government, the majority shares of 49 percent of the new carrier project will be owned by strategic equity partners, another 46 percent by Nigerians while the Federal Government will own five percent of the shares.

The style adopted in packaging the project has continued to generate criticisms with key players accusing the government of withholding the required information about the new airline from Nigerians.

However, the news that the government had picked Ethiopian Airlines as the technical partner of the new national carrier has started generating mixed feelings with some praising government for picking a fellow African airline as a partner in the project.

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Some of those who supported the move attributed their reasons to a good example so far portrayed by the African airline as witnessed in its ability to compete favourably with foreign airlines across the globe while other airlines from the continent continue to perform below expectations.

Other key players have opposed the choice of Ethiopian Airlines on the premise that its role as a competitor to the new national carrier on the Nigeria/Addis Ababa route will not yield good dividends.

Wole Shadare