Despite litigations, the Federal Government has unveiled the much-talked-about Nigeria Air airline by taking delivery of a Boeing 737-800 ET-AL in its fleet.
Outgoing Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, Unveiled the Project at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (ABV) on Friday evening.
Sirika had earlier confirmed the arrival of the aircraft in a video tweet on his official handle on Friday afternoon..
“We are here. To Almighty God be all the glory. It has been a very long, tedious, daunting and difficult path. We thank everyone for the support.
“This, by the will of God, will be for us and generations to come. Ya Allah make it beneficial for our country and humanity”, the tweet read.
Sirika said the Nigeria Air is one infrastructure that has been missing in the general aviation dynamics of the country.
“The airline that is equal to the size of the market, the dynamics of the market of Nigeria, to its geography and the fortunes of the country. Indeed, we do need the kind of infrastructure that we’re having today in the name of Nigeria Air Limited.
“This Nigeria Air Limited, of course, obviously, it’s an entity known to Nigerian laws. There is a partnership between entrepreneurs in Nigeria and the entrepreneurs in Ethiopian Airline Consortium. Consortium is a company belonging to many partners, and it’s very long journey.
“We started in 2016 and it ended up today. There is a history behind all of these. There were challenges down to one for that matter. We didn’t allow them to make us lose focus. We stayed with the eyes on the ball and today we’re here”, he said.
Speaking on the business case, Sirika said that it was envisaged that within the next five years, it will hit the 35 Aircraft mark.
“You don’t come in one day to dump 35 aeroplane. You can’t come in one day and start going to London. So, it’s a gradual process. The aeroplane will be coming one after another. And until in the next five years, according to the business case, we achieve the 35 aircraft mark, from there it continues.”
On his part, the chief commercial officer, Ethiopian Airline, Lemma Yadecha Gudeta, while commending the effort of the federal government of Nigeria, assured that the project under the watch of the Ethiopian Airlines would ensure economical development for the country.
Gudeta, however, assured that the Nigeria Air would be a one billion dollars project in five years time, stating: “As far as the initial business plan that we are working on in collaboration with stakeholders in the consortium, Nigerian air will be a 1 billion US dollar company in five years time.”
Earlier, domestic operators under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria had obtained a court order blocking the launch of the airline for not making them part of the ownership structure of the national carrier.
The airline’s ownership structure comprises, Ethiopian Airlines 49 per cent, Nigerian private investors (SAHCO, MRS, and other institutional investors) 46 per cent and the Federal Government five per cent.
AON lawyers have written a letter to Buhari, asking him to stop Sirika’s attempt to “circumvent the court orders.”
The lawyers led by Abubakar Nuhu Ahmad of Nureini Jimoh Chambers titled the letter, ‘Nigeria Air Project: Last Minute Planned Disobedience to Court Order And Deliberate Plan to Rubbish the Achievement of this Administration.’
They said, “We are solicitors to Airline Operators of Nigeria (“Our Client”). Our client filed the above suit to question the shady deal, deliberate infraction of the Nigerian laws and self-enrichment, mainly against the Federal Ministry of Aviation over the Nigerian Air Project.
“In the suit, the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos presided by Hon. Justice A.L Allagoa, in the above suit, granted Orders of interim and interlocutory injunctions, in the terms contained in the Order, restraining taking of any step in relation to the Nigeria Air project. Copy each of the Orders are enclosed as Annexures 1, 2 & 3.
“As your Excellency is well aware, the administration will hand over on Monday May 29, 2023 but the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, is planning to circumvent the Court Orders on Friday 26th May, 2023 being the last working day of this administration and possibly to cover up the various infractions of Nigerian laws, amongst others.
”This was disclosed in the interview granted yesterday by the Hon. Minister to Channels Television and same has gone viral on social media. The Minister is planning to hurriedly bring in two (2) aircrafts and pretend that NigeriaAir has commenced operation.
“Aside moral justification for commercial operation after the Minister’s last day in office, it is a clever way to violate the court orders. This action has no regard to whether or not it will stain the record of this administration, whether or not it will cover for corrupt actions raised in the suit and deliberately meant to violate Court Orders for self-serving purposes.
“We therefore employ your Excellency to stop this action of the Minister of Aviation, ensure compliance with the terms of the order and avoid needless controversies on the action after your Excellency’s administration would have expired.
“Notwithstanding, our client will still pursue contempt action against the Minister personally whether or not he left office, for the promotion of the rule of law, protection of integrity of the court and in line with international best practices.”