Nigeria is currently planning to relaunch a national carrier almost 20 years after its predecessor went bust under a cloud of debt, mismanagement and corruption as outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari seeks to cement his legacy.
The airline is planning to take to the air before the end of the year with a service between Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, and Abuja, the national’s capital, aviation minister Hadi Sirika said on Friday.
Nigeria’s infrastructure has suffered from decades of under-investment and its aviation sector is a hotchpotch of small domestic operators and big international carriers.
A functioning national carrier could be a boon for economic growth & help Nigeria become a major operator in the West Africa, a region where flights can be expensive and hard to come by.
The relaunch of a national airline has been one of the foremost priorities of Buhari and Sirika since taking office in 2015. The rebranded Nigeria Air came to the public at the Farnborough Air Show in 2018 but plans to launch were suspended by the government just two months later. No reason was provided. A new bidding process was announced in March.
Biggest airlines of Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is the lead technical partner in the new carrier and the single largest shareholder, with a 49 per cent stake. In the statement, Sirika set the overall value of the proposed deal at $300 million.
The airline will be launched with three Boeing 737-800 planes and plans to own 30 jets and operate international flights in two years. The government will own 5% of the carrier, with the remaining 46% going to local investors, including Nigeria’s sovereign investment fund.
Sirika added, “The consortium has been subject to a due diligence process.”
The completion of deal is subject to the final negotiations of contract terms and the approval of Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council, a committee of decision makers headed by Buhari and members of his cabinet. The process is expected to take up to 8 weeks. Successive governments have made attempts to revive a national airline since the collapse of Nigeria Airways in 2004, with several iterations of a rebooted carrier failing to take off.