Aviation industry experts have strongly criticized the launch of Nigeria Air, the national carrier, citing concerns over former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika’s disregard for a federal high court judgment and the absence of an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The fact that the flight is still registered under Ethiopian Airlines indicates that Nigeria Air does not possess the required AOC for aircraft registration in Nigeria. Despite obtaining the Air Transport License (ATL) last year, the airline must acquire several other licenses from the NCAA before commencing commercial flights.
Financial aspects of the Nigeria Air project have also come under scrutiny, with allegations of misappropriation of funds and fraud against the former Minister. The Federal Government has committed a total of N15.9 billion to the project over eight years with limited progress.
Critics argue that instead of entering a wet lease agreement that potentially gives Ethiopian Airlines an undefined investment advantage, utilizing the existing fleet of aircraft held by AMCON from Arik and Aero contractors could have been a viable alternative.
Analysts emphasize the need for prompt intervention by the new administration to avoid potential contract defaults that could lead to significant liabilities for the country.
The alleged lack of transparency in the project has raised concerns among domestic operators, as evidenced by the federal high court injunction, highlighting the necessity for a comprehensive evaluation. The benefits of having Ethiopian Airlines as a technical partner must be balanced with the interests of domestic airline operators.
Domestic operators have expressed worries regarding the unclear shareholding structure of the national carrier and the predominant influence of Ethiopian Airlines, potentially impacting the local aviation sector within the Single Air Market.
The absence of a shareholder’s agreement and the exclusion of meaningful domestic interests on the board, such as Sahcol and MRS, have further fueled apprehension. Additionally, granting a 3% stake to Sifax investment adviser without any financial contributions has raised concerns.