Being a strong believer in state control of the commanding heights of the economy, President Muhammadu Buhari has never hidden his desire to float a new national carrier for the country.
In November last year when the Nigerian-born President of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Muyiwa Aliu, visited him in Abuja, the President trumpeted the “serious pressure” on him from “patriotic Nigerians” to set up the airline.
It was not surprising when three months ago, activities heightened towards actualisation of the project. Minister of State, Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, indicated in May a deadline set by the President for the unveiling of Nigeria Air by December 2018. Then, on July 18, 2018, Sirika went to the Farnborough International Air show, London and unveiled the logo of the putative Nigeria Air. He disclosed that it would need $308.8 million as startup capital and $8.8 million as “pre-startup capital”.
According to him, the Federal Government would only hold five per cent equity in the supposed national carrier, though conclusions had not been reached as to who the supposed private sector operators would be.
An elated Sirika added further that the airline would take off with five aircraft and increase to 30 within five years, targeting 81 destinations. However, the Minister shocked the nation penultimate Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meeting when he announced the indefinite suspension of the Nigeria Air national carrier project. He did not give reasons for the decision, though the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, later explained the action was taken due to “investor apathy”.