This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
On Wednesday, 18th July 2018, Nigeria’s Federal Government unveiled the new name and logo of Nigeria’s national carrier 15 years after it was initially shut down.
The revelation was made at the Farnborough International Airshow in London by Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation for State, Hadi Sirika. The National carrier is Nigeria Air and is expected to start operations in December 2018.
“Following the extensive market research, the branding of our new airline, Nigeria Air, demonstrates a true flag carrier of our nation, soaring through the skies in the shape of our nation’s eagle. “The Nigerian Government will support the launch of the new flag carrier with viability gap funding, in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to deliver a national flag carrier.” - Hadi Sirika
The news of the new National carrier has been met with mixed reactions. The scepticism comes as a no-brainer considering Nigeria has had many failed attempts at a National carrier.
When Nigeria Airways was first established in 1956, it offered hope for efficient air transport and in some way was a symbol of national pride. However, the airline slowly deteriorated due to gross mismanagement.
At the time it was dissolved by the Obasanjo administration in 2003, the airline was swimming in corruption. Stakeholders had formed dubious companies and used them to syphon funds from the airline under the guise of servicing, safety and maintenance. It’s no wonder that the airline’s operating fleet moved from 32 to 1, leaving the corporation in $60million worth of debt.
This same thread of mismanagement is what led to the shut down of Virgin Nigeria Airways. The airline was a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic Founder and billionaire, Richard Branson. It had a clear vision for Nigeria, and it was to build the country into Africa’s aviation capital. 5 years down the line, Branson shut down its operations due to the constant interference from the Government.
Hadi Sirika has assured Nigerians and the international community that the government learnt a lot of lessons from the experience of the defunct Nigeria Airways. But if history in Nigeria has taught anybody anything, it’s that a lot of the time, it repeats itself.
In all, there have been hard to miss assertions that the National carrier being unveiled at this time is politically motivated. It’s hard to argue with this line of thought when one considers that Nigeria’s Presidential election is only six months away.
One of President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign promises before the election was to revive the National carrier. It is fantastic that he seems to be on the path to fulfilling this promise, however, the timing is impossible to ignore.
Nobody can say for certain what is to become of Nigeria Air as many unanswered questions around it linger. The Federal government, for instance, has said it owns only 5% of the corporation but failed to disclose the private entities that own what’s left of it.
Now, we wait.