Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has justified the collaboration entered with Ethiopia Airlines toward the birth of a national carrier stating that the arrangement is in keeping with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).
He noted that over ninety percent of airlines doing business in Africa are non-African pointing out that Ethiopian Airlines was the only airline on earth that made a profit during COVID.
Alhaji Sirika who addressed the media on the scorecard of Muhammadu Buhari in the Aviation sector Thursday in Abuja insists that no administration has done better than the administration in the provision of infrastructure and improvement on aviation policy.
He maintained that Ethiopian Airlines is about the number one profitable airline in the world, adding the partnership would not just be beneficial for the 250 million Nigerian population but also impact positively the economy of the continent.
Whether it is the right decision that we are ceding Nigerian Airway to Ethiopia airlines, I think it is a fair comment.
“I am not making case for Ethiopia Airlines. It is an African Airline and it has been existing for 70 years. They fought the war but the airline was saved. Ethiopian Airlines was the only airline on earth that made a profit during COVID and today it has declared this year a profit of $1 billion.
“The only other airline that declared profit is Qatar Airlines. Whether they are doing it correctly— yes, they are doing it correctly. They have not passed the 170 airline mark they have robust organisation and a member of Star Airlines. They are a huge company. Because they are African does not mean they are not good.
He said the ministry is working in accord with African Union AU agenda for Africa to develop that takes advantage of the 1. 2 billion people in this continent. Besides, he said the ministry invited bids from some top airlines including Qatar Airlines, and Lufthansa but got no response.
“Personally I went to Lufthansa, Qatar, and invited all the airlines to come. I went for a road show in London in the US and other places.
“We said that government has no business in business. We saw it in Nigeria’s airways. It went down simply because of governance and the issue of free tickets to Hajj, Jerusalem and all of that. We said Ok, that said we need some -0-shoulders for the airline so we gave the FG 5 percent—all the 250 million people of Nigeria because has no business in business and we can’t run it and you know the truth.
“Second we say 46 percent of the airline will be owned by Nigerian institutional investors who are interested to buy. If you add the two together you have 51 percent which is the controlling share”
He maintained that Nigerians still control the majority share in the new airline which is estimated to gulp $350 million dollars
“Equity partners and investors will now invest 49 percent. The total, for now, to come and start up the airline is $350 million.
“Ethiopia Airline is expected to bring 49 percent of 350M and the rest 5 percent –$17.5 and 46 percent from those that want it (Ngr) institutional investors … Whether you like it or not an airline to serve about 250 million people at the centre of Africa must interact must associate and partner with a foreign airline.
“Ethiopia is the second largest country in Africa while Nigeria is the largest in Africa. Transportation is about population. Connecting those two populations is the best thing to happen to Africa. If it happens by sheer luck I think it will be the best thing to happen in Africa.
On the threats by some foreign airlines to withdraw services from the country, he said the country has no direct control over the problem citing the global economic decline. Nonetheless, he said the administration is committed to bilateral air services agreements and treaties reached with the airlines
The foreign carriers and their threat to withdraw from Nigeria and all of that ” Buhari is committed to agreement and treaties. he respects them. But again went through another recession and challenges with importation and insecurity, COVID 19 which totally took the money out.
“One would have taught that since Buhari had demonstrated he is responsible and its government had paid what it met and had promised he would pay in before the end of December, one would have expected they would believe and trust us because of future benefits –but they are insisting Nigeria should be banned.
“Honestly we need their service but they need our market more. We are 250 million people while some of them are 10 million. They should give us breathing space and respect we need some honour as a country. We are a sovereign nation and understand, “he stressed.