The raging controversy over the “unveiling” of the supposed national carrier, Nigeria Air plane at the twilight of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration ought to have been avoided by officials of the federal government involved in what has turned out to be a show of shame. The federal government and people of Nigeria should have been saved the national embarrassment caused by that demonstration of unbridled impunity and official recklessness in executing government’s projects.

While it is prestigious and desirable for Nigeria to have a national carrier, as we had previously before the unfortunate collapse of the Nigerian Airways some decades ago, the floating of the new airline must also follow due process and comply with aviation rules and standards. Besides, all stakeholders in the aviation sector must be carried along in all the processes leading to the purported unveiling of Nigeria Air. It is sad that what transpired during the inauguration of the Nigeria Air in Abuja has become the butt of jokes.

But, in this particular case, the Nigeria Air was hurriedly and reportedly unveiled with Ethiopian Airline plane disguised as Nigeria Air. The scandalous act is ridiculous and unacceptable. It is apparent that everything about the Nigeria Air was done in secrecy and outside the knowledge of most Nigerians.  There is no doubt that the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, reportedly bypassed regulatory procedures and seemingly overreached himself in procuring the airplane used for the inauguration of Nigeria Air. According to reports, the Boeing 737-800 plane used for that exercise reportedly belonged to Ethiopian Airlines with registration number ET-APL and not Nigeria Air as erroneously projected to Nigerians and the outside world. Curiously, the same plane returned with passengers to Addis Ababa the following day as scheduled Ethiopian Airlines service with the call sign ET 938.

Apart from the fact that entire processes that underlined the floating of Nigeria Air with a rented aircraft from Ethiopian Airlines were shrouded in secrecy, airline operators, known as Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), have criticised the clandestine plan to float a national carrier in clear breach of extant aviation rules and regulations. They believe that Hadi Sirika’s mission in inaugurating the Nigeria Air without the input of local operators is a grand ploy to kill the indigenous airline operators and allow Ethiopian Airlines to monopolise the sector. This could explain why the local operators challenged the move in a law court.

However, an embattled Sirika swiftly denied the allegation and maintained that the project was done in the best interest of the country and was private sector driven. He alluded to the fact that the invitation to the private operators to own stakes in the new carrier was rebuffed based on selfish reasons of the indigenous carriers.

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Regardless of claims and counter claims over the floating of the new Nigeria Air, it is certain that the processes were not carefully considered and planned. The rush to unveil the Nigeria Air when most Nigerians opposed having a Nigeria Air, almost owned by the Ethiopian Airlines, is quite untidy. Instead of using Ethiopian Airlines to operate Nigeria Air, the federal government can consider using any or some of our existing successful indigenous airlines to have a flag carrier, which is now in vogue in global aviation industry.

Allowing Ethiopian Airlines to serve as our national carrier will eventually kill the indigenous airline operators. Let the government regulate the industry and allow the indigenous operators and others to thrive. The government should help to develop the sector without insisting in having a national carrier. The government should also be reminded the factors that led to the liquidation of the defunct Nigerian Airways and avoid making the same mistakes again.

We condemn the attempt to hoodwink Nigerians by packaging Ethiopian Airlines plane in the name of Nigeria Air. Let the new administration not tolerate the mind-boggling malfeasance. In view of the huge amount committed to the project, we urge the new government to probe the botched unveiling of Nigeria Air plane with a view to unearthing the roles played by Sirika and others in the failed project.

Those found culpable in the recent unveiling of Nigeria Air project must be sanctioned appropriately. Most airlines regarded as national carriers around the world are just flag carriers of those countries. Nigeria can as well do the same thing and use some of our indigenous airlines as our flag carriers.