The New National Carrier | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Our View, Views

The New National Carrier

Posted: Sep 1, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Federal Ministry of Aviation to expedite action on the establishment of a new national airline for the country. The president gave this directive while receiving briefings from the officials of the Ministry, led by the Permanent Secretary, Binta Bello, at the presidential villa. This is indeed a welcome development to the extent that it is obviously an embarrassment that Nigeria, peddled as the giant of Africa with the largest economy on the African continent does not have a national carrier.

Obviously, the absence of a national carrier since the defunct Nigeria Airways has led to a shoddy implementation of the country’s Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA), which over time have favoured foreign airlines as a result of the country’s inability to reciprocate such agreements with the availability of its own national carrier.

It is regrettable that the Nigeria Airways, which used to be a formidable national airline, established in 1958 could not be sustained by successive governments in Nigeria. Sadly enough, it went down completely in 2003 due to monumental corruption, mismanagement, ineptitude, neglect of safety rules, and poor maintenance culture among other factors. Available information reveals that at the time of insolvency, the Nigerian Airways left a debt profile of $60 million. In addition, it is disheartening that from a fleet of 32 aircrafts in 1979, the national airline could only boast of two aircrafts flying the domestic routes and only one on the international routes at the time of insolvency. Moreover, after the Nigerian Airways flopped some of the airline’s were liquidated through some controversial privatization exercise which enabled some top politicians to acquire them.

As government intends to bring back the national carrier, it is important that caution be observed by not going about this in a hasty manner. There has to be a well thought out policy framework on the proposal. Like the saying goes, “those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.” It is against this backdrop that we wish to state categorically that the important thing is not about bringing back a national carrier but how it is to be managed. If government intends to run the proposed national carrier by itself, then we are afraid history may repeat itself.

Indeed the thinking among industry experts is that a major reason for the demise of Nigeria Airways was the reckless and careless way in which almost every government official both at the federal and state levels evaded payment before flying on the national carrier. There is no doubt that this constituted a huge financial drain on the company. Of course, globally, governments are not seen as good “business men”

This newspaper therefore believes that running a successful national carrier may entail doing it in a Public -Private Partnership basis even as government puts in place a favourable regulatory and legal framework that would put the operations of the airline under check. This way, the airline would be much more business oriented running strictly on commercial basis with profit making as its operational motive.