The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has disclosed that foreign airlines ignored Nigerian government’s request to invest in Nigeria Air.
Sirika said after approaching several international airlines across the world, only Ethiopian Airlines presented its interest and met the expected requirements, with no competition offers available.
He revealed this at the presentation of the ministry’s scorecard in Abuja on Thursday, after questions trailed the selection of Ethiopian Airlines.
In October, the Vice President of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and Chairman/CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, had criticised the decision to hand over the national carrier to Ethiopian Airlines.
Onyema had stated that the partnership between both parties would be detrimental to the local operators, as Ethiopian Airlines was trying to enter the Nigerian aviation market and reduce prices.
The Air Peace boss had explained that the partnership would increase Ethiopian Airlines’ market share to 60 per cent in Nigeria, adding, “It is our belief that the six months period would lead to the liquidations of several domestic carriers.
“The Ethiopian Airlines/Nigeria Airlines Limited partnership may appear good initially but in the long run, it would have ripple effects on the local airlines whose market would have been decimated,” Onyema buttressed his point.
However, Sirika in his statement on Thursday said there was no competiting offers, as Ethiopian Airlines was the only one that showed up with interest in Nigeria Air, hence, the Nigerian government had no choice.
Explaining the situation leading to the selection, Sirika said, “We did not cede Nigeria Air to Ethiopian Airlines. It is the only airline in the world that made $1 billion profit even during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the most prosperous, efficient and leading airline in the African continent and it was the only airline that responded to our request for partnership to run the airline after many months of advertisement of expression of interest.
“Even after some interested persons asked Nigeria to extend the time of EoI and we did, none of them showed interest. Officials of the ministry of aviation led by me personally visited some of the leading airlines across the world and pleaded with them to take up the partnership with Nigeria to set up the airline, none of them signified interest except Ethiopian Airlines, which has been allotted 49 per cent shares while Nigerian institutional investors take up 45 per cent while the federal government will take up only five per cent.
“The choice of Ethiopian Airlines is good for Nigeria and it is in line with the African Union Agenda. Our desire is for Africa to come together and lead the African aviation market through our new partnership with Ethiopian Airlines. The partnership will also reduce cost of operations and airfares for Nigerian and African air travellers as opposed to the current situation.
“Contrary to what people think, let it be known that Ethiopian Airlines emerged as the preferred partner of Nigeria Air through a transparent and credible process that cannot be faulted because we want the project to succeed so that Nigeria can have an airline that does not suffer the fate of the former Nigeria Airways.”
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