Embarrassment galore as Nigeria suspends new airline project four months before take-off
London, September 19, 2018 (AltAfrica)-The third attempt to own a national carrier by Nigeria has hit the rock again as the federal government suspend the most anticipated project, Nigeria Air, barely four months before its official launch.
Nigerians who spoke to Alternativeafrica.com in London expressed shock and great disappointment.
A top diplomat with the Nigerian High Commission in London who did not want to be named said “Its a shame. A big shame that after much expectation, our hopes have been dashed again. We have hoped to show the world and showcase our national identity, all to no avail.
Another Nigerian, a business mogul in London felt ashamed at another image disaster the cancellation has caused the country.
The Nigerian government unveiled the name and logo of the new national carrier on July 18 at Farnborough Air Show in London and fixed its launch date for December.
Disclosing this to newsmen in Abuja, the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, noted that the decision to suspend the project was strategic and had nothing to do with politics or pressure from stakeholders
But a presidential sources familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday night that the EMT wanted the ministry of transportation to instead accelerate the search for strategic investment partners who will finance and manage the new airline.
In the absence of a borrowing plan for government participation, a source said, the president ruled against spending money that is not in the budget.
Promoters of the idea of the new national carrier were therefore asked to work towards 2019 budget if any government investment is to be involved, according to the paper
The cancellation announcement comes barely two months after Nigeria unveiled the proposed airline at the Farnborough Air Show in England on July 18.
Critics and industry experts raised concerns over the project when it was launched in July, with many suggesting that Nigeria cannot afford it at this time.
But the Nigerian government dismissed all concerns raised, saying the airline would begin operation before the end of 2018. During electioneering in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to establish a national airline.
In July, shortly after receiving the Outline Business Case Certificate of Compliance for the establishment of the airline from Chidi Izuwah, the Director General, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Mr Sirika, a former pilot, boasted that the airline would be viable. He also said Nigeria will receive the first set of five airplanes for the airliner on December 19, with projections that the airline will make profit in three years after operations.
The proposed airline was expected to gulp $8.8 million preliminary cost and $300 million as take-off cost.
Nigeria’s defunct carrier, Nigeria Airways, became moribund due to corruption and poor management. More than a decade after the national career stopped operations, however, the numerous controversies surrounding its winding up have not been resolved.