Uganda Airlines Takes Off, Nigeria Air Mired In Controversies
The Task Before Sirika and Amaechi
From Edward Mutesa in 1962 to Milton Obote, to Idi Amin down to Yoweri Museveni in 1986 to date, the Ugandans have seen a lot, fought many economic and political battles; yet with dogged determination, the Uganda Airline is set to take to the skies very shortly.
Specifically, Uganda Airlines has set August 28 as the launch date of its maiden flights to four destinations in the East African region. This ends nearly 20 years of absence from the skies.
The revived airline, which recently got its Air Operation Certificate, has announced plans for two daily flights to Nairobi and Juba, one daily flight to Dar es Salam and four weekly flights to Mogadishu.
This is even as the minister of Aviation Mr. Hadi Sirika, after the launch/unveiling of the Nigeria Air logo at the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom in July 2018, came back to Nigeria empty handed-no funds, no aircraft.
The cost and resource that went into the unfortunate Nigeria Air project still leave a sour taste in the mouth of many Nigerians notwithstanding explanations by those in the know.
For instance, the media was awash last year with reports that a company in Bahrain named FROM6 Communications designed the Nigeria Air logo at a cost of $600, 000, (over N200m), there has been no official denial nor confirmation of controversies surrounding the logo design nor the propriety of unveiling the Logo in London.
Amidst controversy that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, was divided over the Nigeria Air project, minister of Transportation then and now told Nigerians that there were disagreements by members of FEC on operational modalities.
In his words “On national carrier, (the) cabinet is divided on the issue of modality. There are those who believe that the Federal Government should invest and then we can sell the equity later. There are also those who believe that no, and from day one, they say let us get investors in and give them the franchise of Nigeria Airways or Air Nigeria or whatever is called. That is where we are and that is what held it down. But as for whether it is still in our plan, it is and has not been abandoned.”
In a swift reaction, Hadi Sirika debunked Amaechi statement when he said “Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, was misquoted in reports which stated that he (Amaechi) said the Federal Executive Council was divided over the mode of implementation of the national carrier project”.
Sirika disclosed further that “President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the viability gap funding for the project be provided for in the 2019 Appropriation which the National Assembly had graciously done. The Federal Government has approved N47.43bn for the Nigeria Air project in the 2019 budget, Hadi Sirika, said.
Mr Dapo Williams, one of those at the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom, while speaking on the Nigeria Air project told newsmen that “We will make the investments and follow the business plan through private sector management. We intend to get a 30 aircraft market in 5 years. But we will begin with 5 aircrafts on the day of launch. Government would step in to cover the funding gap at the onset and ease out thereafter”. “Government would not get involved in the management of the Nigeria Air. The Airline would take advantage of Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) that the country had with over 70 countries. It will also take advantage of the Africa Single Air Transport Market and will be the best player if the government gets it right”.
Ships are vital to economies
Is the Nigeria Air project dead and buried?
As ministers settle down to get Nigerians out of poverty, a project like Nigeria Air added to a new national shipping line which has been on the drawing board are investments which could help in carrying out President Mohammadu Buhari’s directive “Nigerians are poor, get them out of poverty”
We are confident that Amaechi and Sirika know what to do.
The thought of the quality and quantity of jobs that could be created directly and indirectly from Nigeria Air and a National Shipping Line, economists say are pathways to national economic rejuvenation/prosperity.