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‘5 years tax waiver, Ethiopian management’ — Keyamo speaks on suspension of Nigeria Air project

‘5 years tax waiver, Ethiopian management’ — Keyamo speaks on suspension of Nigeria Air project
November 28
11:45 2023

Festus Keyamo, minister of aviation and aerospace development, has given reasons the Nigerian Air project was suspended.

Keyamo, who spoke during the federal executive council (FEC) meeting on Monday in Abuja, said many observations and concerns were raised about the project, adding that he would reveal them in a full interview.

The minister said one of the issues with the Nigeria Air project was the tax waivers of five years granted to Ethiopian Airlines.

“I have deliberately not granted the full press interview. I’ve heard all kinds of things going on social media, but I cannot preempt my president,” he said.

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“All the documents, all the reports and everything, we forwarded them to Mr. President; the issues we met on the ground. I feel the pulse of Nigerians, even the national assembly raised concerns over that and so many stakeholders.

“It would have been irresponsible to close my eyes totally to those concerns. So because of that, we suspended it to say, look, let’s just look at all the issues and recommend. Now we have looked at all the issues and it’s before Mr. President. 

“But let me just give one or two snippets because of Nigerians who are very quick to judge. In the agreement, you are giving tax waivers for an Ethiopian airline coming into Nigeria. 

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“They asked for tax waivers for five years and you granted them to come and compete with your local allies who are paying those heavy taxes. How?

“It will create a monopoly. That’s why when they tell you, oh, we want to crash prices by 70 percent, it’s a lie. It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul because they have removed all taxes from you and you granted them tax waivers.

“Initially, they will crash prices but once they drive everyone out of the market there would be a monopoly and then a hike of 500 percent and nobody gets to question them. The only thing that brings down prices in the commercial world is fair competition.

“In their agreement, they also proposed that they appoint everyone from top management as Ethiopian and we agreed.

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“So, when I’m ready to talk, I will talk. But I cannot preempt Mr. President, we have raised all concerns before him.”

In May 2023, Hadi Sirika, former aviation minister, unveiled Nigeria Air, the country’s national carrier, in Abuja — however, the launch was trailed by widespread controversy.

Prior to its launch, domestic aviation firms, under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), had opposed the floating of the airline over uncertainties in its ownership structure — a conflict that began soon after Ethiopian Airlines was announced as the preferred bidder for Nigeria Air.

Consequently, a federal high court in Lagos restrained the government from floating the airline.

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On August 31, 2023, Festus Keyamo, minister of aviation, announced the suspension of the national carrier project.

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