The Federal Government has announced the suspension of the national carrier project. The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirirka, made the announcement on Wednesday via a tweet.

The tweet on his handle read: “I regret to announce that the Federal Executive Council has taken the tough decision to suspend the National Carrier Project in the interim. All commitments due will be honoured. We thank the public for the support as always.”

The minister, while briefing journalists, said the decision was strategic as against claims that the suspension was due to pressure from stakeholders and the political atmosphere. He said, “Today in Council, the federal government of Nigeria has decided to suspend the National Carrier project for some strategic reasons and we would advise you in due course.

“The decision has nothing to do with the pressure from stakeholders because we have explained, as a government, that for 40 years; since 1978 to 1980 when decision was made to liberalise the sector, we saw the coming of Okada, Arco, ABC, Bellview, and so on. We have seen their coming and their exit and, right now, we have got Medview, Air Peace, Arik; we have got all of these people with permission to go international.

“We have given them Banjul, Dubai, London, South Africa and everywhere. Of course, none of them is meeting the need of Nigerian people to have a robust national carrier and that is to say that something is amiss. This was the intention of government – to set up a carrier that would deliver this service to Nigerian people.

“So, the service is needed and that is why the federal government went ahead to appoint a transaction adviser to continue the process. So it has nothing to do with pressure. There is no pressure.

“You and I know that the service is not being delivered in Nigeria. Locally and internationally as well, prices of tickets are astronomical within international routes and certain routes in Nigeria that ought to be developed are not developed. In the past, Nigerian Airways was doing Makurdi, Sokoto, Calabar, Maiduguri with BC10 and full.

“So, with this absence, this gap is there. With all the number of airlines flying the country, this sudden growth to 20 airplanes, we have seen it in Okada, Kabo, Arik and many others, but the service is not being delivered.  So there is no argument from stakeholders to say we should not proceed, no.”

The minister also clarified that the suspension was not politically motivated as presumed by many.

It will be recalled that Nigeria Air was unveiled on July 18 at the Farnborough International Airshow in London and operations were scheduled to begin in December. The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika had said the airline will be managed by private investors with the federal government owning a five percent stake in the business. He had stressed that the government was fully committed to fulfilling the campaign promise made by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 to establish a new national carrier to replace the defunct Nigerian Airways.

According to findings, the proposed airline was expected to gulp $8.8 million preliminary cost and $300 million as take-off cost.