Stakeholders in the aviation sector have urged the Federal Government to learn from the experience of the defunct Nigeria Airways as it pushes ahead to establish a new national carrier.
The Federal Government, in its updated roadmap status, disclosed its plan to establish a national carrier that would enable Nigeria to gain optimal benefits from Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements.
The status showed that the establishment of the carrier would enable Nigeria to take advantage of the Single African Air Transport Market and also introduce competition.
Nigeria Airways, which was established in 1958, was dissolved in 2003 during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo. After the dissolution of the Airways, debts incurred led to an upfront payment of 25 years to foreign workers.
Former workers of the defunct airline and other stakeholders told our correspondent that there were important steps and decisions to be taken in order to avoid a recurrence of what happened with Nigeria Airways.
The Chairman of Aviation Union Grand Alliance, and a former employee with the defunct Nigerian Airways, Lookman Animashaun, said, “If there is any government that should learn from what happened with the Nigerian Airways, it should be this government.
“This government happens to be the one that is clearing the mess created by the demise of the Nigerian Airways. One of those things they should do is to limit their interference. Government’s interference should be minimal.
They should make sure that after a period of four or five years, the national carrier should be listed on the stock exchange so that there can be corporate governance. It was because there was no corporate governance that there were problems here and there.”
An ex-union member, who also worked for Nigeria Airways, Ibrahim Husseini, said the new national carrier would resuscitate the legacy of the defunct one lost.
He said, “There is something about the national carrier that money cannot purchase. When they say Nigerians are stranded in different places, with just a phone call, you go ahead to pick up your citizens. But other airlines will be looking for money.
“A national carrier should not be profit-driven because it is about Nigeria. It is about regulation; it is about standards. The economy and legal implication was not understood before the Nigeria Airways got dissolved. The foreigners who worked with the Nigerian Airways were paid first.
We want to see a national carrier, but what is paramount is to see our people paid. We appreciate Buhari’s government for the effort. Though it is going slowly, we know that we will be paid.”
The Assistant Secretary for the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers in Nigeria, Femi Ajagbe, said it would be in the best interest of the government to exercise due diligence and limit its interference with the proposed airline.
A member of the Aviation Round Table, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), said, “If the government wants to set up a national carrier, it should. Foreign technical partners should be sought for, like the Emirates which has the British working with them.
“We have been unable to learn anything about the real running of airlines from Nigeria Airways and those running airlines today.
“Get foreign technical partners that would guide us and credible Nigerians who know how to handle money well to come on board.
“Credible Nigerian business investors should invest about 25 per cent; the government should have five per cent, foreign technical partners about 35 per cent, and the remaining 35 per cent should be sold to the public at the Nigerian Exchange Limited.
“If you do not bring Nigerians into this, it is going to go down the same way Nigeria Airways did.”
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