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Sirika unveils Nigeria Air, says 35 aircraft expected in next five years

BY Bunmi Aduloju

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The federal government unveiled Nigeria Air, the national carrier, on Friday in the country’s capital city.

The unveiling ceremony was held at the airline’s operation centre situated in the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.

Speaking at the event, Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation, said the partnership with the Ethiopian Airlines (ET) consortium, the preferred bidder for Nigeria Air, will connect the market of both countries.

Sirika said a demonstration flight would commence soon as part of the procedure to commence operations fully.

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“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,” he said.

“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 that we started in 2016 and ended up today.

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“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.”

Speaking on when the flight operations will commence, Sirika 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,” he said.

“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.”

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The minister added that more aircraft are expected to arrive until the airline reaches the 35-aircraft mark in the next five years.

“It is envisaged that it will hit the 35 aircraft mark but you do not come in one day to dump the airplanes and you don’t come in one day and start going to London. It is a gradual process and the aircraft will be coming one after another until the five years that we reach the 35 aircraft mark,” he said.

“This is a private sector-led airline with only five percent 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 begin with local flights, saying “it is a Boeing 737 capacity aircraft”. 

NIGERIA AIR — THE GENESIS

In 2018, under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, Sirika unveiled the name and logo of the new national carrier.

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The minister had said the airline will have flights on 81 domestic, regional, and international routes.

Sirika, in November 2021, said Nigeria Air would commence operations with three wet-leased aircraft. 

A wet-lease is an arrangement covering the hire of an aircraft, including the provision of a flight crew and sometimes fuel.

Although the commencement of the airline’s operation had missed the deadline several times, Sirika recently reiterated that the national carrier would fly before May 29.

Meanwhile, domestic aviation firms, under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), had opposed the floating of the airline, saying a federal high court in Lagos had restrained the government’s actions. 

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