By The Editor
At the Farnborough Airshow in 2018, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to the consternation of the global aviation community unveiled a logo of what was to be Nigeria’s national carrier, Nigeria Air (NA). Despite mixed feelings from aviation stakeholders, the national carrier project was set in stone and the Minister was set to prove that this was a project worth pursuing.
Amidst fanfare, the name and logo were unveiled, but over the years, it seemed those were the only things planned for. Some months after the unveiling, the Minister announced the suspension of the project, citing division among the Federal Executive on the modalities of the establishment of the proposed national carrier. The project felt dead before arrival, and sources then revealed that the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, then chairman of the economic council wasn’t convinced about the viability of the project in the manner Sirika was pursuing it.
After several failed promises, billions of naira — a whopping ₦85.4 billion (see infographic) has been wasted. Seven years down the line, and on the last working day of his tenure, Sirika launched his fake airline for 200 million Nigerians, aka Nigeria Air. And with circumstances surrounding the launch, it begs the questions — Where is Nigeria Air? Who are really the owners of NA? Why were public funds used for this project? Why has Sirika been coy with this project, giving little to no details? A multibillion naira project!
The actions of Sirika are no longer a case of patriotism nor of someone with a passion for the aviation industry, but has clearly become a show of desperation. In all honesty, is this airline founded on a solid foundation to meet the aspirations and dreams of Nigerians? Or is it just a feat to cover the wasteful and shambolic project? Surely a faulty foundation cannot stand. If it were in a corporate world, can you imagine the consequences of this waste on a CEO?
This project is one of the most wasteful ventures ever undertaken in the history of Nigeria’s aviation. The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) had challenged the modalities of the project especially with the logic of the airline being operated by Ethiopian Airlines, a competitor from day one. In November 2022, a federal court had ordered that all parties involved in the national carrier project maintain status quo. The Minister’s attempt to desperately fly the airline is a direct infringement on the court order. Or has the court case been vacated? Is this a continuation of the wanton impunity of this notorious government?
A court order had restrained the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) from issuing the airline an AOC, which then begs the questions — has an AOC been issued? Can NCAA confirm to us which AOC Nigeria Air is using? Did NCAA go against the court order to issue Nigeria Air an AOC? When was it issued?
Findings reveal that the aircraft is a 10-year-old Ethiopian Airlines (ET) registered Boeing 737-800 which operated in a failed venture in Malawi. It was repainted by ET, and later repainted in Nigeria Air’s livery less than five days ago.
Since NA doesn’t have an AOC, you wonder what razzmatazz the Minister was up to. You wonder why a foreign registered aircraft with a foreign crew in a foreign uniform is launching a national carrier which is by the NCAA law not permitted to even operate locally!
For ET, was it worth the airline mucking its reputation in this shambolic project with all kinds of shady deals ? How did they fall so low, knowing the reaction of the Nigerian people, and the insincere and unprofessional attempts to fake a national carrier? Surely ET is a culprit in this saga.
Sirika and ET assumed that Nigerians were fools and thought they could take us for a ride. In reality NA has no aircraft, and thus could not operate, except an AOC was issued. With the high number of human capital in the Nigerian aviation sector, they thought the public could be hoodwinked by their smooth talk.
Since 2016 when Sirika announced this project, his first port of call in seeking for investors was Qatar Airways, being part of the presidential delegation to Doha. He had a meeting with Akbar Al Baker, the Group CEO of Qatar Airways. When the airline hosted the IATA AGA in 2018, Al Baker informed the Nigerian media that Qatar Airways was never interested in any partnership with NA ; rather, he advised Nigeria to build its infrastructure, referring to our airports, particularly the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. The hint was — put your house in order.
That should have been the major focus of Sirika. How do you build a house in a desert without infrastructure? But Sirika had other ideas. Bogus ideas.
All his bogus dreams have finally collapsed after 90 months in the saddle as Nigeria’s longest serving aviation minister. Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has served this portfolio for up to 40 months. Here’s Sirika’s epithet…..he promised so much, was given so much, had so much time, but delivered very little. Very little!