The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has officially unveiled the highly anticipated Nigeria Air plan with the acquisition of a Boeing 737-800 ET-AL aircraft. In a ceremony held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja, the minister emphasized that this infrastructure addition fills a significant gap in the country’s general aviation dynamics. The Nigeria Air project is aimed at establishing an airline that matches the size and potential of the Nigerian market.
Minister Sirika explained that Nigeria Air Limited is a legally recognized entity, formed through a partnership between Nigerian entrepreneurs and the Ethiopian Airline Consortium. The consortium, comprising multiple partners, embarked on a journey that began in 2016 and culminated in this milestone achievement. Despite facing various challenges along the way, the project remained steadfast, driven by a vision to enhance Nigeria’s economic development.
The minister reassured that the ongoing legal proceedings would not hinder the progress of the Nigeria Air project. He emphasized that it is well within the rights of any party to approach the court, just as it is the government’s prerogative to pursue projects that contribute to the nation’s well-being. Minister Sirika emphasized the crucial role of civil aviation in Nigeria’s economy, citing statistics from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics that highlight the sector’s significant contribution to GDP growth, even amid the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Minister Sirika expressed the nation’s enthusiasm and support for the Nigeria Air initiative. He stated that this venture represents an opportunity to showcase how airline business can be conducted efficiently while providing better services to the Nigerian people. The minister emphasized that this is not about unhealthy competition but rather a means to serve the nation’s aviation needs more effectively.
Regarding the establishment of the airline, Minister Sirika explained that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has set specific conditions to be met. The acquired aircraft will undergo a demonstration flight to demonstrate the capacity and capability of Nigeria Air. This process typically takes between zero and 40 hours, ensuring that the airline is fully prepared for commercial operations.
Looking ahead, Minister Sirika outlined the business case for Nigeria Air, envisioning the fleet expanding to 35 aircraft within the next five years. He emphasized the gradual nature of this growth, stating that it would be impractical to introduce 35 planes overnight or commence long-haul flights immediately. The minister stressed that the expansion of the airline will be a step-by-step process, with additional aircraft joining the fleet over time, ultimately reaching the target of 35 aircraft.
Chief Commercial Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Lemma Yadecha Gudeta, praised the efforts of the Nigerian government in launching Nigeria Air and expressed confidence that the project, under the auspices of Ethiopian Airlines, would contribute to the country’s economic development. Gudeta projected that Nigeria Air has the potential to become a one billion dollar project within the next five years.