The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has commended the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) for taking the bold step to suspend the planned National Carrier Project in the interest of the nation.
Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation, Nigeria, had recently stated: “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.”
Capt. Nogie Meggison, AON Chairman, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for listening to AON’s many calls for the idea to be suspended.
Putting the issue into perspective, Capt. Meggison says: “Setting up of National Carrier will cost Nigeria at least $3bn (a single B777 as of today costs about $320m.)” He therefore asked: “Is it wise and our priority as a nation to take $3bn from the Nigerian coffers today and put into a venture that will for sure go down the drain within a maximum of 5 years to establish a “National Carrier”?
“Nigeria does not need a National Carrier. Like what operates in advanced countries of the world, what Nigeria needs are strong private airlines that are allowed to operate in a friendly operational environment with a level playing field and policies that ensure their survival,” he stresses.
Bearing also in mind that the National Carrier will need an additional cash injection of $500m subsidy per year on average for the next 10 years to keep the airline afloat while about 97% of the 200 million Nigerian masses today are grappling for the basic necessities of life; food, shelter, electricity, water, education and good roads. Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 100 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.00 a day.
Speaking further, he remarks: “National Carrier is an obsolete just for ‘“ego/pride” idea. Business and pride don’t go together. All over Europe South America, USA today, 90% of them have been made private including Lufthansa, British Airways etc. Also, they are all flag carriers which are completely private entities.”
Nigeria is a natural Hub for Africa. However, airlines don’t make a hub; but it is world-class infrastructure that makes a hub. Then the airlines and airplanes will come in.