NIGERIA plans to float a new national airline by December in response to the growing crisis across the industry that has left the country with no state-owned carrier.
Nigeria’s lack of a national carrier has made international flights a lucrative business for foreign airlines, which can often charge exorbitant rates.
London-to-Lagos is regarded as the most lucrative route in the world due to the volume of passengers travelling and the colossal sums the likes of BA and Virgin are free to charge. One of the major reasons for such exploitation is the lack of a national carrier offering effective competition.
Benjamin Okewu, the national president of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria said that a federal government committee was in place to ensure that Nigeria has its own national carrier that would serve as a driver in the nation’s aviation industry. He noted that the process of creating the national carrier would have been completed long ago but the June 3 Dana plane crash slowed it down.
Mr Okewu said: “There is a committee on establishing a national carrier and incidentally, the joint trade union forum is representing the unions there. I think that the Dana crash slowed down the activities of the committee and I am aware that it is now trying to hasten the process to put finishing touches, to it, to enable the airline take off by December 2012.”
Over recent years, several plans to float a carrier have been frustrated and Air Nigeria, once earmarked for the role, recently suspended its operations. Others also touted for the role, like Arik Air, have failed to realise the dream as they are still heavily indebted to the government and making them a national carrier will involve the taxpayer wiping off their debts.
Several years ago, Richard Branson planned building a Nigerian national carrier, which he said would become the biggest airline in Africa, but that fell by the wayside too amid corruption claims.