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Nigeria Scraps Launch of Flag Carrier

Nigeria Scraps Launch of Flag Carrier
Jackie Reddy

The debut of Nigeria Air, the airline that was to follow Nigeria Airways as the West African nation’s flag carrier, has been scrapped. This comes just months after it was announced that Nigeria Air would commence service by the end of 2018. Many have expressed disappointment and anger at the news.

The launch of Nigeria Air, which was hailed as the long-awaited replacement to Nigeria Airways, the country’s former collapsed flag carrier, has been scrapped, reports AFP via the Daily Mail. The latter carrier collapsed 15 years ago, but Nigeria Air was unveiled as its successor as flag carrier only this past July at Britain’s Farnborough Airshow.

It was initially announced at the event that Nigeria Air would be commencing its services by the end of this year. However, the outlet reports that earlier this week, Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s aviation minister, revealed that the debut had been halted due to strategic issues. While Sirika did not go into further details, an anonymous presidential official explained that the launch was scrapped because of financial problems.

The unnamed official was quoted as saying, “The Economic Management Team (EMT) chaired by the vice president (Yemi Osinbajo) did not give the go-ahead. (The) EMT recommendation is that government should not set up a national carrier with public funds. EMT wants the ministry of transportation to instead accelerate the search for a strategic investment partners who will finance and manage the new airline.”

“In the absence of a borrowing plan for government participation, the president ruled against spending money that is not in the budget,” the source added.

The decision to suspend the launch caused anger among the nation’s citizens, many of whom took to the Internet to express their feelings for a venture that was felt to be wasteful.

Multiple carriers have come and gone in the West African nation over the years and the news agency observes that, “In the last 35 years alone, more than 40 airlines that have actually got off the ground have gone bust in Nigeria while domestic travel is dogged by delays and cancellations.”

Offering his comments, Olayinka Abioye, the general secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, expressed his disappointment at the situation, saying, “An airline flying our flag would have been a symbol of national pride and prestige. It would have created jobs for our people and brought in needed foreign investment.”

[Photo: FAAN]

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