By Sumaila Ogbaje
Nigeria has commenced negotiation with aircraft manufacturers preparatory to the unveiling of a new national carrier, many years after Nigerian Airways was liquidated.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, said that the Federal Government was also negotiating with investors at the ongoing Farnborough International Air Show in the United Kingdom.
Mr James Odaudu, Deputy Director, Media and Public Affairs in the aviation ministry said in Farnborough on Monday that the Nigerian delegation which the minister led, had met with the Management of Airplane manufacturers Airbus to negotiate the acquisition of the desired aircraft for the nation.
Sirika also disclosed that negotiations with Boeing and other Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) would take place on Tuesday.
According to the Minister, the ongoing International Air Show is an opportunity to negotiate with airline manufacturers with the view of getting the most competitive and best value-for-money deals for the country.
He said he would also explore every opportunity available at the air show, an event that brings the biggest and the best in the industry, to attract more prospective investors into the Nigerian aviation environment.
Sirika explained that the show would provide an opportunity to establish a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Nigeria, concession of some airports in the country and other components of the Aviation Roadmap the federal government.
The minister had earlier tweeted: “Negotiating Aircraft orders with Airbus at Farnborough ahead of National Carrier unveiling on Wednesday.
“Negotiations with Boeing and other OEMs tomorrow.
“Met with Standard Chartered Bank earlier. All is looking good!”
The minister had on July 6, announced that the name and logo of the airline would be unveiled during the air show in the UK and assured that the airline would commence operations in December.
The government had explained that the perceived delay in the launch of the National Carrier of Nigeria was to avoid the mistake of the past.
Sirika, said that in a bid to avoid errors that led to the failure of the defunct Nigeria Airways, the national carrier would be private sector driven.
He said that stakeholders had agreed on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for the new national carrier.
The minister explained the Federal Government was following Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) guidelines to ensure that due processes in the arrangement.
According to him, government has appointed the Transaction Advisers to work out modalities for the carrier.
He said that government intended to go into alliances or joint ventures with other aircraft manufacturers to increase the reach and number of routes of the national carrier.
Sirika added that the planned improvement of airport and air navigation infrastructure would support the expected growth from activities of the new carrier.
“The question of national carrier, we all have agreement that this national carrier can only survive and succeed if it is private sector led and driven.
“Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Nigeria are guided by act of parliament which is the ICRC Act 2007 that spelt out how to go about doing all these things.
“We will be following them diligently. But unfortunately, it is cumbersome but we are following it so that we don’t run afoul of the law.
“African Development Bank and other companies are discussing with us on this matter.
“We are yet to meet with other stakeholders but we expect to meet them during this conference and after then, we will go and do our road shows.
“The key thing here is having something that will stand the test of time so that we don’t start and falter.
“It has happened to Nigeria before. The Air Nigeria was founded and at some point, it died because of something that was faulty.
‘’We have learnt our lessons and we are not going to repeat it again,” he said.
Sirika admitted that one of the major challenges of air transportation in Africa was high taxes.
He said that the issue of high taxes would be discussed as a critical factor to encourage investors.
”The lower the tax, the more flights in and the more flights in, the more passengers, more jobs, more revenue and that is within our master plan.’’