NIGERIA’S long-planned new national carrier first mooted in 2018 at Farnborough Air Show in the UK is now due to begin operations in the first quarter of 2022 according to aviation minister Hadi Sirika.
In July 2018, Mr Sirika announced that the airline known as Nigeria Air would be launched later that year following extensive negotiations with several international airlines and aircraft manufacturers. However, the project had to be put on ice after it was discovered that there was no provision for it in the federal budget.
Over the last three years, talks have been going on with interested parties, including international airlines and Mr Sirika says he is now confident that the airline will launch next year. He added that the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the conclusion of plans and take-off of the project, which he said the federal government is still committed to.
Mr Sirika said: “In this 2021, we will try to do all the needful and probably we intend to start operations somewhere around first quarter 2022. We went to the Federal Executive Council to approve the outline business case for the carrier and it raised some questions and asked us to go and file the memo again and bring it back.
“It is still in top gear, we are coming back to council, hopefully within the next two weeks, to present the memo on the national carrier. So, once it comes back and the outline business case is approved by council, then, of course, we will now go to the full business case, which is now going to the market and then establishing the national carrier.”
He said the national carrier was expected to take off initially this year. Mr Sirika added that it is needed as an economic necessity for a country with the size of the population, vantage geographical location and other natural factors like Nigeria.
“It was our intention to have a national carrier running in 2021, which is this year. Unfortunately due to Covid-19, which took the greater part of last year, since March last year, activities are almost impossible.
“Of course, for obvious reasons, we now have access to equipment, that they will come faster to us, deliveries of the aircraft will be faster, perhaps even the rates might be cheaper and so on, and so forth,” Mr Sirika added.