Despite a subsisting court order blocking the takeoff of the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, the Federal Government has brought in a jetliner in preparation for operations
The jetliner, a Boeing 737-800 aircraft marked ET-APL belonging to Ethiopian Airlines but rebranded with the Nigeria Air livery, landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Friday morning.
Speaking at a media tour of the aircraft, the Aviation Minister, Mr Hadi Sirika, said the arrival of the airplane signals the beginning of a national carrier that will be to the benefit of all stakeholders.
He said the aircraft, subject to approvals and certifications by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), would commence test flights soonest, to gauge its preparedness.
He said the Abuja-Lagos route would be preferred.
He added that the choice of Ethiopian Airlines has become the best judging from its globally-recognised capacity and technical expertise that has existed for 77 years.
On assurances that Nigeria Air will outlive the Buhari administration, Sirika said that Nigerian government’s share in the project is only five per cent, adding: “if the Nigerian government decides not to continue, other parties will trudge on.”
On possible takeoff date, he said the NCAA would decide when commercial flights can operate.
With regards to the existing litigation, he said the government was more concerned about delivering excellent services via Nigeria Air and has not stopped local operators from bringing in foreign partners to fortify their operations in Nigeria.
In the buildup to the establishment of a new national carrier, local operators under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria obtained a court order blocking the launch of the airline for not making them part of the ownership structure of the national company.
Nigeria Air’s ownership structure comprises Ethiopian Airlines with 49 per cent stake, Nigerian private investors (SAHCO, MRS, and other institutional investors) with 46 percent and the Federal Government five per cent.
Nonetheless, Sirika, had in several fora, assured the public that the national carrier would fly before the end of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.