By Favour Nnabugwu
THERE are indications that the establishment of a new national carrier may become a reality soon with the submission of the report by a Federal Government committee with the mandate to work out modalities to restore the national airline.
According to him, “the creation of the committee on the establishment of a national carrier has generated a lot of excitement and comments both in the print and electronic media as well as in social media networks since its inauguration.Submitting its report at the Ministry of Aviation, Chairman of the committee, Capt. Abdulsalami Mohammed, said that the committee had wide consultations and received a number of memoranda in the course of its sittings.
“It was therefore not surprising that we received a lot of memoranda from interested stakeholders within and outside the country.
“We consulted with a total of 74 stakeholders, ranging from airline operators to aviation agencies, service providers, financial consultants, institutional investors, aircrafts and parts suppliers and former staff of Nigeria Airways Limited.”
Mohammed noted that the committee has given what he described as far reaching recommendations, which if accepted and implemented by the Federal Government will have positive impact on the aviation industry in Nigeria.
Receiving the report, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Mrs. Binta Bello, explained that the inauguration of the committee was based on a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, to advise government on appropriate modalities for the establishment of a national carrier.
She declined to give a timeline within which the proposal will be implemented arguing that, “the report has just been submitted to me and I have not even opened it.
“Until I open the report and see the recommendations, I cannot say exactly what we are going to come up with.”
The committee was inaugurated in Abuja on August 25 and given four weeks to complete its assignment.
The Federal Government had made several failed attempts in the past at floating a national carrier after the demise of the Nigeria Airways which was established earlier in 1971 following a buy-out of the equities of Elder-Dempster and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).
Reports indicate that for over 40 years, the airline served as link to various destinations not only in Nigeria but also across West and Central Africa and also operated intercontinental flights to Europe, USA, Middle East and Asia.
According to an Aviation Consultant, Chris Aligbe, Federal Government’s Structural Adjustment Policy of Former President Ibrahim Babangida in the in the 1980s dealt the Nigeria Airways a devastating blow which may have eventually led to its grounding.
According to Aligbe, “the Structural Adjustment Programme came with a huge devaluation of the Naira and stoppage of annual subvention to Nigeria Airways.
“This twin policy action quadrupled Nigeria Airways problems as it multiplied the airline’s debt in terms of the quantum of it required to meet its foreign debt obligations which at the IATA Clearing House stood at US$42 million, among others.”