Nigeria Air: An outlet for elite interests or an attempt to restore National pride?

Nigeria Air

Should the Super Eagles become world champions at their next outing in the global games, the team’s captain could be stepping out of an airplane bearing the mark of an eagle on its tail.

The young French team did with Air France, so, yes we can. Is that what the now unveiled national carrier, Nigeria Air, is about?

From the repair of airport runways and concessions of airports to fleshing out new terminals, the Buhari administration appears to be doing more physical works in the aviation sector than in any other.

Under the supervision of the Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika, there is a substantial feeling that changes are being made to aspects of the air-travel environment.

One supposes that the twin aims are to provide more confidence for investors to be attracted to the Nigerian market and comfort for travellers plying our routes.

Launching a national carrier is another step in that line of projects aimed to exhibit the strength and serenity of the Nigerian travel environment.

But where pride may be achieved by having an airline that can go to various parts of the world bearing your country’s name, what much else does it actually do for the country and its people?

The agreement in the Outline Business Case (OBC) as approved by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission states that the Federal Government will only have a 5% stake in the airline.

Management decisions will be taken solely by the private investors without interference by the government.

However, the government is funding the take-off of the project and is stomping a significant $300 million and negotiating with the likes of Airbus and Boeing for a fleet of aircraft with which to begin the project.

Every Nigerian who has had hopes in such big projects in the past but has seen them crumble knows that it is at these start-up stages that the ingredients for failure are injected.

How the government sources for this initial capital of N107 billion could be instrumental to the progress of this project.

Assuming a transparent process will be followed in negotiating the 95% holders – transparent meaning that the public knows who they truly are and what their worth is – the only window for local politicians who want a piece of the action to partake is to play a part in providing the initial capital.

Nigeria Air is projected to start making profits in 3 years but it is precisely the kind of project that drives elite interest, so expect that big mansion owners in Ikoyi and Maitama will be looking for ways to get a piece of the pie.

An opportunity to brag at golf rendezvous about having contributed one or two million dollars to the Flying Eagle isn’t something these guys pass up.

But let it be that the entire sum will come from the government’s coffer; history tells us this is still one hell of a risk to take for that much money.

There will be no pride in failing at another national carrier project which is why sceptics worry that this process has not been thought through rigorously.

A former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, is open about her desire for it to fail “for the sake of Nigeria”, a sharp profession that is chilling but may not be without good intention.

It is arguable that N107 billion spent on the healthcare or education industry will be of greater benefit to Nigerians than an airline.

It is worth noting that Nigeria’s slip into the unenviable rank of the country with the highest proportion of poor people has as much to do with the lack in those two cruelly underfunded sectors as it has to do with another critical sector: internal security.

Why are we not undertaking a revolutionary project on the Police Force to make it world-class in terms of personnel capacity and operational facilities?

Governments will do what they want and will be judged on its consequences. With the national carrier, it won’t take too long to judge. It is easy to see why things fly, or when they don’t.

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