National carrier project gathers pace, FG opens bid next week

The Federal Government is pursuing ahead with the setting up of a national carrier, Nigeria Air as the government will next week open bids for the carrier.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika gave the hint in Abuja on Thursday, adding that the Federal Government would issue Requests-for-Proposal for the establishment of Nigeria Air next week.

 A request for proposal is the process of requesting the bids to evaluate the feasibility, financial health, and bidders’ abilities to undertake a specific project.

 The Minister said the government would issue requests for proposals to intending investors on March 8, 2022.

Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika

“The transaction adviser is going to request for proposal next week Monday. The government will own five percent, Nigerians will own 46 percent, and the international partners’ airlines will take 49 percent shares,” he said.

 “We will give them some weeks to respond to the request, then we will announce the winning bidder.

 “However, in the interim, because the government intends to own only five percent of the airline shares, we are going to go ahead with the AOC (Air Operator Certificate), which has commenced since.

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“I believe that by April, we should be able to have our AOC ready, which means, we are ready to start. And once the AOC is in our hands, the offices are secured, the interim board is being constituted, and when they finish signing the contract, we will announce who they are.”

 Sirika further added that the bidders are temporarily called interim board members and should take over latest by July.

 “Currently, they are called interim because they will hold the airline on an interim basis up to the time the investors will come and take over.”

 “They are noble people, some are Nigerians, some are not. I think there are about nine of them running the airline and they will begin operations between now and July.

“Within the period, Nigeria Air would run Lagos and Abuja, and as the situation demands, they may extend to Port Harcourt and other parts of the country.”

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 The minister added that the concession of four major international airport terminals would be completed in the second quarter.

Sirika was in November last year cleared to begin processes for the establishment of a private sector-driven national carrier which pace gathered momentum early last years six years after the idea was drawn up.

The Nigerian government would hold a 5% stake, Nigerian entrepreneurs holding 46% while the remaining 49% will be reserved for yet to be assigned strategic equity partners, including foreign investors.

The entire cost of the projects for the revival of the aviation sector including the establishment of a private sector-driven national carrier would gulp N27 billion.

The entire project had a March 2021 timeline to be supervised by the Ministry of Aviation. The debate for a national carrier for Nigeria will never go away depending on the side or position one takes.

To show the seriousness of floating a national carrier, there are indications that Nigeria may have picked Egypt Air consortium and Ethiopian Airlines to set up an aviation leasing company as part of a government plan to overhaul the country’s aviation sector.

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Sirika recently explained that any airline that will operate at that level must be such that would support the national economy with $450 million Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 200million people and must be equipped to compete favourably.

He said: “The international airlines that have dominated Africa, 80 percent of those airlines are non-African. In view of the AU Agenda 2063, the Single African Aviation Market, we thought that there will be an airline that will take up that challenge; that will take advantage of it and be able to provide services to our people.

Wole Shadare