FG unveils Nigeria Air aircraft
The Boeing 737 aircraft with registration ET-APL was unveiled by Sirika at the Nigeria Air Operations control centre of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja on Friday.
According to the Minister, a demonstration flight would commence soon as part of the procedure to commence operations fully.
He also noted that more aircraft are expected to arrive until the airline reaches the 35-aircraft mark in the next five years.
Sirika also said no law stops the ministry or anybody from bringing developmental growth to the country.
Speaking on the essence of the airline, the Minister said: “This is one infrastructure that has been missing in general aviation in dynamics of the country; the airline that is equal to the size of dynamics of the market in Nigeria for its geography and fortune, indeed, we do need the kind of infrastructure that we are having today in the name of Nigeria Air limited.
“This Nigeria Air Limited is obviously an entity known to Nigerian laws and the partnership between entrepreneurs in Nigeria and entrepreneurs in the Ethiopia Airline consortium.
“The consortium is a company belonging to many partners and it is a very long journey, we started in 2016 and ended up today.
“There were challenges but we did not allow them to make us lose focus and today we are here. We pray that it will be good for our country, its people, its future, and humanity.”
On the litigation and if his action amounts to subjudice, he said: “It is not subjudice because if it is, we are not going to embark upon it. No law stops us from continuing to bring developmental projects to our people.
“The constitution of Nigeria is very clear and it is within their rights to go to court for whatever reason they want to go to court and it is within our rights to do all the things that will promote the general wellbeing of Nigeria and Nigerians and this is one of them.”
He added: “It is not an unhealthy competition, the market is good for everybody. During Buhari’s time, we doubled the number of aircraft and airlines in the country, we gave everybody a level playing field, and I did not turn down a single request from airlines since I became a minister.”
On when the flight will commence, he said: “In the process of establishing an airline, there are conditions set by the regulator which is the NCAA.
“So, this airplane will be here and we will commence the demonstration flight to show that we can do it. It is normally around 0-40 hours but it can be less, it can be five or even two hours and this is to ensure that we are able and have the capacity to do it.
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“So, I know the NCAA will give clean bills to start to fly. So, this is part of the process and it is the beginning of the establishment of the airline.”
On the number of aircraft that the airline would operate, Sirika said: “In the Business Case, it is envisaged that it will hit the 35 aircraft mark but you don’t come in one day to dump the airplanes and you don’t come in one day and start going to London, so it is a gradual process and the aircraft will be coming after another until the five years that we reach the 35 aircraft mark.
“This is a private sector-led airline with the government with only five per cent and there is no stopping right by the government. So, Nigerians are welcome and I am sure the five percent will go to the public for sale at some point.”
He added that the airline will commence with local flights.
“It is beginning with a local flight and it is a Boeing 737 capacity aircraft.”
The Chief Commercial Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Lemma Gudeta, expressed delight in being a part of the historic unveiling of Nigeria Air as a foreign company operating in Africa for 77 years.
Also speaking, Gudeta highlighted the importance of Ethiopian Airlines as “the custodian to work on the development of Nigeria Airways” and expressed the airline’s commitment to supporting Nigeria’s economic growth.
He said: “We strongly believe that our presence here in Nigeria will enhance people-to-people and business-to-business links between the most populous nations in Africa.
“We will play a significant role in sharing our experience in the field of aviation, and we will give the level of service that the society deserves,” Gudeta said.
Gudeta lauded Nigerian government for choosing Ethiopian Airlines as a partner, citing the airline’s commitment to serving the Nigerian public during challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
He assured Nigerians that the partnership between Ethiopian Airlines and Nigeria Air would be a long-lasting one that would serve the Nigerian economy and public in the ways that they deserve.
On the five-year projection for Nigeria Air, Gudeta explained that the airline is working on a business plan in collaboration with stakeholders, and expects Nigeria Air to grow into a $1 billion company in five years’ time.