The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has commended the Federal Government for suspending the proposed new National Carrier, Nigeria Air.
In a statement on Friday it said, “The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) would like to commend the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) for taking the bold step to suspend the planned National Carrier Project in the interest of the nation and in response to the many cries for reason put forward by AON that has continued to call for a rethink by government regarding the project in the light of the tough economic situation in the country today and the fact that it is a moribund idea”.
According to the statement, the AON Chairman, Capt. Nogie Meggison, described the National Carrier as an “obsolete just for Ego/Pride” idea.
He believes the country has more important issues which he says should be prioritized rather than investing $3bn in an airline.
“Setting up of National Carrier will cost Nigeria at least $3bn (a single B777 as of today costs about $320m.)”.
He, therefore, asked: “Is it wise and our priority as a nation to take $3bn from the Nigerian coffers today and put into a venture that will for sure go down the drain within a maximum of 5 years to establish a “National Carrier”?
Meggison also noted that apart from the $3bn, the National Carrier will need an additional cash injection of $500m subsidy per year on average for the next 10 years to keep the airline afloat.
This according to him is not a wise investment. He stated that about 97% of the 200 million Nigerian masses today still struggle for the basic necessities of life.
The AON further stated that it kicked against the idea because the process was neither transparent nor did it clearly define the role of private investors in the entire process.
“At this time of limited resources, AON would like to state that there are private Nigerian Airline Investors ready to invest and already investing heavily on the sector and only asking for a more friendly operational environment and infrastructure support,” it said.
Quoting industry personalities worldwide, the AON stressed that “Nigeria does not need a National Carrier. Like what operates in advanced countries of the world, what Nigeria needs are strong private airlines that are allowed to operate in a friendly operational environment with a level playing field and policies that ensure their survival.”
It further explained that although Nigeria is a natural Hub for Africa, airlines don’t make a hub. “It is world-class infrastructure that makes a hub. Then the airlines and airplanes will come in”.