By LOUIS IBA
Strong indications emerged early this week that efforts to get a core investor for the proposed national carrier may have been stalled by the Federal Government’s delay to give its nod to proposals submitted by the Ministry of Aviation and its consultants on the project.
An industry source told Daily Sun that consultancy work for the project had been completed but disclosed that “the team had to work with some speed considering the need to close the huge capital flight gap created by the absence of a functional national carrier.”
Nigeria is losing an estimated $1.5 billion yearly to foreign airlines due to the absence of a national carrier which has marred the country’s ability to reciprocate the numerous bilateral air agreements it has with other countries. This constraint has left international routes in and out of Nigeria to the dominance or monopoly of foreign airlines. The trend has also encouraged capital flight and slowed aviation industry development. It is also impeding economic development especially employment, maintenance, cargo and other allied activities in the aviation sector.
According to the source privy to the proposals for the national carrier, what appears to be stalling the project, especially getting and announcing the final core investor, is the delay by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to meet and agree on the proposed legal framework, especially those governing equity stake holding structure among the investors.
“We have completed all the paper work, including the legal framework and submitted it to the relevant government authority,” said the source who preferred to remain anonymous.
“We are done with all the theory. And what we proposed remains the best for the industry and for the country. We are waiting for the final investment approval by the Presidency and the Federal Executive Council. I can say we have zeroed in on partners and we are discussing. But we need the government approval first. The investors need to be assured of their stake. Once we get that, we will go ahead and conclude all deals with the core investor and make the necessary announcements,” he added.
He however said the legal framework makes provision for Nigerians to take equity in the proposed national carrier.
“Our proposal allows Nigerians to own shares in the national carrier. It is a business, and we are going to the capital market with an IPO (initial Public Offer) so that aside the government and the core investors, other Nigerians can be part of it,” he said.