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National Carrier: Why We Suspended Nigerian Air Project-Minister

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Aminat Isiah, Abuja

The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, says the national carrier, Nigerian Air, which was scheduled to take off in December was temporarily suspended due to some issues encountered in the actualization process.

Sirika gave the explanation while speaking at the 5th Aviation Stakeholders’ Forum in Abuja on Thursday.

He further said another major factor that led to the suspension was the inability of the federal government to provide sovereign guarantee for the procurement of 30 aircraft estimated at $300 million in a staggered payment till 2020.

The minister added that the transaction advisers did not complete the process of modalities for the ownership of the new airline as at when the government had provide sovereign guarantee to acquire 30 aircraft for the take-off of the new airline.

According to him, “In recent months, several misinformation, factual errors, insinuations and fabrications have been peddled in both social and print media on the Nigeria Air Project. This included desirability, inadequate planning, non-consultation with stakeholders, lack of transparency and publications of fictitious amounts allegedly spent by government on the project, amongst others.”

He noted that Lufthansa, which was the first approved transaction adviser, was rejected due to its demands such as opening an escrow account, refusal to pay tax and demand for 75 per cent up front payment.

“Estimated funding requirement for the establishment of the project is $300 million up to 2020. Initial start-up capital of $55 million made up of $25 million for deposit for new aircraft and $30 million for working capital from June to December 2018.

“Estimated working capital for 2019 is $100 million. Estimated working capital for 2020 of $145 million to be provided by the Strategic Equity Partners who are expected to manage the project”, the minister added.

He disclosed that IsDB, AfDB, AFREXIM, US-EXIM, Standard Chartered Bank, Boeing, Airbus, COMAC/CCECC, BOAD, China-Exim, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Deutche Infrastructure Finance, French and US Governments have all indicated interest in the project.

On the name of the national carrier-Nigerian Air, the minister explained that the name was obtained from over 400,000 entries it received from the general public after which Nigerian Air was settled for.

He also affirmed that no foreign company was paid $600,000 for the design of the logo as speculated by the general public.

On why the government embarked on the National Carrier Project, the Minister said it is important to ensure to Nigeria becomes the aviation hub for the West and Central Africa, and also to promote reliable air transport services and growth of the aviation sector which will in turn , provide employment and avenue for Nigeria to compete favourably with foreign airlines for a share of international routes through competitive pricing and reduced capital flight.

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