In the face of dwindling fortunes and huge indebtedness of our privately-owned carriers to our commercial banks, the government has to step in to save jobs and other Nigerian-owned institutions. It is a step in the right direction and our dream of a strong flag carrier can be sieved from the AMCON-controlled carriers.
Preferably, there can be a holding company to manage the carriers, while Arik runs the international routes and charter operations. Aero can do the domestic route and charter services, while a fixed wing operation is also carved out of the airline. Simply put: three companies with different managements and pay structures under a holding company. This is the company that will compete with other private carriers.
Sadly, the teething stage of government intervention has been very disappointing from the appointment of someone who was at the hierarchy of the failed Arik Air and had condemned the AMCON takeover. Only for the same person to be compensated with Aero job and the announcement of Lufthansa consulting tied to pseudo front Nigerian company, called TN Aero, as lead consultant for the new carrier, which smacks of deceit. SAHCOL, an aviation handling company, is a success story today because of the transparency in its process, while the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 is enmeshed in litigation because of the process. So, the process adopted for the new national carrier and other projects announced recently are not transparent and there is a future price for this. •Mr. Olu Ohunayo (A former President, National Cabin Crew Association)
The Nigerian government needs to get its priorities right. The aviation industry, under the leadership of the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has achieved quite a lot and is gathering the momentum needed to revolutionise the aviation sector in Nigeria.
I would rather the minister and the Federal Executive Council focus on more impactful goals that are achievable and beneficial to the Nigerian people. On first thought, we know the government does not do a good job when it comes to running a business because of patronage and interests that will ensure that the enterprise fails.
Setting up a national carrier via Public Private Partnership will only mean that what Nigerians get in return is the pride of owning a national carrier. With a conducive environment in the aviation industry and the market demand, especially regionally, thousands of jobs can be created and true competition can then emerge to force down prices.
The ownership of a national carrier by the Federal Government, especially in these times when we are just coming out of a self-inflicted recession, is not just a misplacement of priorities, it also casts a doubt on what our overall vision is in that space. Anyone can sincerely ask whether our government really wants to provide jobs and force down prices or it’s just distracted by the profit-making potential of the aviation business, if done right. •Jude Feranmi (National Youth Leader, KOWA Party)
It is good for the country to have a national carrier. Countries like India, Egypt, Britain, United States of America, and several other nations have their national carriers. A national carrier reinforces patriotism in the minds of the nationals. It enhances the image of the nation and sends a strong signal about its presence in the comity of nations.
Besides, if the government abdicates all responsibilities and leaves them in the hands of private organisations, it means the service will be beyond the reach of certain categories of people. Government does not go into business solely for profit-making but most times, to bring sanity into it. A national carrier also boosts the image of the country and brings a sense of pride to the citizens. If it is successful, it is also a way of telling people that the atmosphere is conducive for that kind of business. It restores trust in the system and also generates employment for citizens. There are several reasons government runs a business. When government runs a business, it brings down the cost of service and promotes quality. It is also a public relations stunt for the country. So, the development is a welcome one. •Sulaimon Salawudeen (An Ekiti State-based media practitioner)
The issue is that governments always have this somersault in policy approach in the name of privatisation and today, they are waking up again to wanting a national carrier that will be sold back to their children at the end of the day. It is unacceptable; it is a fluke.
People are owning their own national carriers and they are doing very well except Arik that has packed up. Dana is there, other people are doing it. I don’t believe getting a national carrier is a fluke. They are looking for a way to use our common wealth again and tomorrow they sell it to themselves. So, to me, it is a fraud.
Countries that had national carriers the same time Nigeria had its own, like Qatar Air, Ethiopia Air are doing very well. We are not a serious people; we are a corrupt and dubious people. They should not talk about it. It is a fraud for them to even think about it.
Obasanjo sold everything. So, whoever is thinking about buying a national carrier should know that it is a time bomb because at the end of two, three or four years, they are going to sell it to their children, let them forget it. Let us manage what we have. •Akamba Awah (Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Akwa Ibom State)
I don’t know why we shouldn’t have one if the motive is right. It can be an alternative source of income if properly managed. We had it before, but something went wrong. We need to address what went wrong and move on.
However, with the present administration, it is difficult to say whether it will go ahead with the plan or not because, they can make a pronouncement today and deny it tomorrow. The question to ask is: is there anything on the ground to show they are serious about giving Nigeria a national carrier? We know that fellow African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and Ethiopia all have functional national carriers that are well managed and are giving a positive image to their countries and making profit.
Take Ethiopia Airlines for example. It is one of the country’s biggest revenue earners, contributing a lot to that country’s Gross Domestic Product and also providing direct and indirect jobs to thousands of Ethiopians. I wonder why we cannot do the same here if we are serious. •Abdullahi Jalo (A former board member, Nigeria Railways Corporation)
It should be a right decision. If the government can create an enabling environment by supporting a national carrier, just like the British Airways, we will be the better for it.
The British Airways is fully owned by the British Government with some shareholders, but that does not mean it is not working. It is working. Look at Lufthansa, Air France, they are companies started by the government and the government gradually divests to a certain extent. We were thinking when Arik was there, it should be our national carrier, but see what happened to Arik.
I think it is good development if the Federal Government decides to back a national carrier. It can provide an enabling environment for business to progress particularly such a very key and sensitive sector to our economy, which is aviation. Government can back a national carrier and gradually divest in the long term.
Nigeria has more than enough capacity to have a national carrier. If we are taking loans for other things, there is no reason why we should not take loan for aviation and establish it properly, an airline for that matter. Government has the strength, if they have the will power; they have the resources abundantly more than individual companies. You see Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Nigeria; you can see the experience. Businessman will always be a businessman but government has interest in aviation, it will prosper. •Capt. Abdulmumini Abdulkarim, (Rector, International Aviation College, Ilorin, Kwara State)
- Compiled by: Etim Ekpimah, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Okechukwu Nnodim, Alexander Okere, Success Nwogu