he hope of Nigerians seeing Nigeria Air, take to the sky this year is dashed as the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) announced recently that the project will no longer be feasible this year.
According to ICRC, the process would be moving to the next stage by the end of February, 2022, thereby, announcing June, 2023, as the new take off date.
The acting director general of ICRC, Michael Ohiani, said, “I want to assure the Nigerian public that we are working round the clock to get it (Nigeria Air), operational. We are working with the Ministry of Aviation and we have just gotten presidential approval.
“We will get the concessionaire, and once we have gotten the concessionaire which is a major step, the issue of operation will now follow.
“I can assure you that before the end of this administration, Nigeria Air will start flying.”
However, before now, stakeholders in the aviation sector, have said the April take off date for Nigeria Air, as proposed by the federal government through the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika is not feasible.
They had argued that key components needed to set up a national carrier such as aircraft, aircrew, ground crew, maintenance base, Air Operating Certificate (AOC) and Air Operating License (AOL), are still not available.
But, in a chat with me on the new take-off date, a member of Aviation Round Table Initiative (ARTI), Olumide Ohunayo, said he knows the Nigerian Air needs a minimum of one year with readily available fund to start operation.
Ohunayo says that what could make the date proposed by the Aviation Minister possible was if the government buys an already existing airline and changed its name to Nigeria Air.
He notes, “It’s not possible. From the first day, the government made that pronouncement, we knew it was not possible and it was the minister’s wishful thinking. In reality, the airline needs a minimum of one year and there must be fund to run the project and other things.
“When the minister told us within four months, we all knew something is amiss, except, they probably wanted to buy an existing airline and change the name.”
The secretary general, ARTI, Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said starting Nigerian Air by April 2022 is practically impossible and not feasible.
“I do not want to repeat myself again, because way back in 2019, I knew it was not possible and late last year, I repeated the same thing; aircraft, aircrew, ground crew, maintenance base, no AOC and AOL among others are not available. How then do you think the airline will be operational in 28 days?” he queried