The Federal Government has stated that it has yet to select a technical partner or core investor for Nigeria Air, the upcoming national carrier.
A source close to the Ministry of Aviation also revealed that Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, may address the media on Thursday to provide an update on the national carrier.
The government stated that the exercise was still in the due diligence stage, but did not specify when the airline would begin flight operations.
A source close to the Ministry of Aviation, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, debunked the claim that the Federal Government had chosen Ethiopian Airlines as the airline’s technical partner and primary investor.
The source said the government still needed to go through a series of stages before it would conclude on a technical partner for the airline.
The source also told our correspondent that before a technical partner or a core investor is selected by the government, relevant government agencies like the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and others would be carried along.
The source insisted that the team was still at the due diligence stage and would unveil its preferred partners to the public at the right time.
The source said: “The news you are hearing is not correct. You know there are processes in government. We have the ICRC, BPE and other agencies that must be in the know and carried along in whatever you do in government; you must apply the due diligence.
“The airline must be registered and so on. Then, when you come back, you will now decide which airline you want to partner with. Moreover, you still have to agree on a commercial with your partner. Which aircraft are you bringing? When are you going to bring them and the routes you will want to go? We should not be dwelling on rumour. Whatever that is in the public space now is a rumour and incorrect.”
Sirika, could not be reached for confirmation when made inquiries on the issue, while a text message sent to his mobile phone was not responded to.
The national carrier suffered a huge setback in December 2018 when the airline failed to commence operations as assured by Sirika. Sirika had earlier unveiled its name and logo at the Farnborough Airshow, London, on July 17, 2018.
The government after the Federal Executive Council meeting had announced the immediate suspension of the carrier due to lack of ‘willing investors.”
Sirika had described the suspension as a sad development but assured that the airline would still commence in the nearest future.
Also, in the first quarter of 2022, Sirika had said private investors were going to raise the sum of $250 million for the national carrier.
In preparation for that, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in June issued it an Air Transport License (ATL), while the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) is still being awaited.
However, industry analysts also faulted the ATL received from NCAA and doubted if all the processes leading to the acquisition of the certificate were followed by the government.
Before a new airline starts operations, it is expected to carry out demonstration flights with complete personnel for 50 hours to some of the routes it intends to operate on in preparation for AOC.
This is in accordance with the NCAA regulation for a new carrier.
The minister, during a budget defence session in October 2020, had told the Senate Committee on Aviation that the Aviation Road Map agenda would be executed in 2021, with the national carrier component getting priority.
On November 23, 2021, after an FEC meeting, Sirika announced that the airline would now take off in April 2022.
Officials of the ministry while boasting of the likelihood of partnering with the likes of Turkish Air, Qatar and Ethiopian Airways had hinted at first-quarter launch date.