President, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Dr. Gabriel Olowo, has decried the plans to set up a national carrier with three wet-leased aircraft describing it as undeserving for the country where there are bigger operators on ground. Olowo made this known in a reaction to the current melee over the way the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, plans to commence the national airline.
Sirika had in a press conference last week revealed his plans to start the airline with wet-leased aircraft and aims to create 70,000 jobs. However, a wet-lease cannot create jobs for the carrier as it is a leasing agreement where the owner of equipment supplies the aircraft and crew as well as maintain operational control of all flights.
Accordingly, Olowo decried that government had under its portfolio, airlines like Aero Contractors and Arik lying in state, suggesting that the wet-leased aircraft could be added to their fleet, all branded Nigeria Air as a stop-gap and later offered to the public.
He said: “A national carrier with startup aircraft of three on wet-lease (No single Nigerian crew) is undeserving for Nigeria where there are bigger operators on the ground. Arik and Aero are already on government portfolios lying in state. Why not add the three wet-leased aircraft to their fleet as a stopgap, rebrand them Nigeria Air, and subsequently offer them to the public.
“On the five per cent equity, he said that the government five per cent equity in Nigeria Air should be done for all 22 private Nigerian airlines on the ground to level the playing field or that airlines could pool together under mutually beneficial codeshare/block seat agreement to build a united, strong mega carrier, stressing that the Nigeria Air project can be used as a consolidator of sorts.
”My first reaction to the five per cent government equity in Nigeria Air is that it should do the same with 22 private airlines on the ground if the government is that liquid in order to level the playing field and give equal support. concessions for concessions, tax relief for tax relief, exchange rate regime for exchange rate regime, handling, over flyer charges, slot, terminal allocation, etc. Nomenclature should be flag carriers. ”Discriminatory or preferential treatment in any form will be a violation of global anti-trust competition rules.
“Then on second thought, the carrier should be modeled a consolidator to harness and pull resources of willing and discerning operators together under a mutually beneficial codeshare/block seat agreement and build a united, strong, and competitive mega carrier to be known as a national carrier rather than a government preferred private carrier.”
These are more tenable nationalistic options, he canvassed. There are indications that from next week that the Ministry of Aviation would start sending out Requests for Proposals to investors interested in owning shares in the proposed national carrier.
It also expressed hope that the carrier, Nigeria Air, would be quoted on the stock exchange, adding that Nigerians would be allowed to buy shares in the airline that was being planned to commence operations with three leased aircraft.
Sirika had said discussions with prospective investors had been ongoing and that a Request for Proposals would be sent out next week.
He said: “We will release what is called Request for Proposals very soon, I believe next week. And this Request for Proposals will describe what and what we are asking for.
“You will now go and send us a document that you are proposing to partner us and this is what you are giving us. Then we will sit down, evaluate, discuss and choose a strategic partner or partners for this airline