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Fraudulent or True? Many Questions Surround the Launch of Nigerian Air

Fraudulent or True? Many Questions Surround the Launch of Nigerian Air

Nigeria’s Minister for Aviation Hadi Sirika on Friday, unveiled the much-anticipated Nigerian Air, barely two days before leaving office.

The Boeing 737-800 ET-AL was unveiled at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, where it landed.

Sirika said the airline project, which is being executed in partnership with the Ethiopian Airlines, Nigerian entrepreneurs and the federal government, will fill the gap of national carrier in the Nigerian aviation industry.

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“The airline that is equal to the size of the market, the dynamics of the market of Nigeria, to its geography and the fortunes of the country. Indeed, we do need the kind of infrastructure that we’re having today in the name of Nigeria Air Limited,” he said.

“This Nigeria Air Limited, of course, obviously, it’s an entity known to Nigerian laws. There is a partnership between entrepreneurs in Nigeria and the entrepreneurs in Ethiopian Airline Consortium. Consortium is a company belonging to many partners, and it’s very long journey.

“We started in 2016 and it ended up today. There is a history behind all of these. There were challenges down to one for that matter. We didn’t allow them to make us lose focus. We stayed with the eyes on the ball and today we’re here.”

The minister explained that although the project is beginning with one plane, it will eventually increase to 35 aircraft mark in the next five years.

“You don’t come in one day to dump 35 aeroplane. You can’t come in one day and start going to London. So, it’s a gradual process. The aeroplane will be coming one after another. And until in the next five years, according to the business case, we achieve the 35 aircraft mark, from there it continues,” he said.

The chief commercial officer, Ethiopian Airline, Lemma Yadecha Gudeta, who was also at the unveiling said the Nigerian Air will become a one billion dollar investment in five years.

“As far as the initial business plan that we are working on in collaboration with stakeholders in the consortium, Nigerian air will be a 1 billion US dollar company in five years time,” he said.

Fraudulent or true?

Following the unveiling of the Nigerian Air, questions about what is really playing out have been flying around. Aviation experts have argued against the feasibility of launching the national carrier a few days before the inauguration of a new government, considering the enormous work yet to be done.

“It is practically impossible for Nigeria Air to start commercial passenger operation in two days’ time given the rigorous process involved,” aviation expert and analyst, Captain Ado Sanusi, said in an interview with ChannelsTV.

Nigerian investigative journalist in a Twitter thread alleged that Sirika is being fraudulent with the launch of the Nigerian Air by presenting a rented plane to Nigerians.

He said: “I obtained the video below of the purported “Nig=20 eria Air” 737-800 from a source at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital. As you can see when you freeze the frame, the aircraft is clearly registered to @flyethiopian with the registration number ET-APL.

“If you put that registration number into @planespotters, you can clearly see that it is an 11 year-old Boeing 737-800 belonging to @flyethiopian. It has also briefly appeared in the colours of @MalawianAirline (@flyethiopian owns 49% of @MalawianAirline).”

“When you check @flightradar24, you can see that this aircraft is still in active @flyethiopian service, but after disappearing to Tel-Aviv for 5 days (undergoing repainting), has now resurfaced in Abuja to be fraudulently “commissioned” later today by @hadisirika,” Hundeyin added.

In June last year, Sirika disclosed that majority shares of 49 percent of the Nigeria Air project will be owned by Ethiopian Airlines, 46 percent by Nigerians while the Federal Government will own just five percent of the shares.

The minister also said that the Nigerian Air, when operational, would generate over 70,000 jobs.

However, the unveiling of just one plane not backed by operational infrastructure, has created doubts and questions about the national carrier.

“A whole national carrier is birthed without a management structure, line personnel, sales outlets, airline counters waiting to be utilized, operations backbone, maintenance structure and endless aspects that show you a semblance of something authentic,” Akin Olaoye tweeted.

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