New Airline to Take to the Skies
Business Day (Johannesburg)
January 7, 2002
Posted to the web January 7, 2002
THE Nigerian government is set to float a new national airline, to be known as Air Nigeria.
The proposed carrier will take up the international operations of ailing Nigeria Airways.
Aviation Minister Kema Chikwe said arrangements were under way to have French aerospace giant, Airbus Industrie, to manage Air Nigeria.
"What we have done now with Nigeria Airways is that there is a two-tier arrangement for the airline. The international operations have been separated from the domestic and regional operations. We are going to have a new airline to do the international operations," she said.
Chikwe said Nigeria Airways would continue to fly the domestic and regional routes. "It is still strategic to get the private sector involved in the operations of Nigeria Airways. Whatever we adopt, the important thing is that the national carrier is heading towards privatisation.
She said France Airbus Industrie would manage Air Nigeria for a yet-to-be disclosed number of years. "Airbus is going to provide four aircraft. We are negotiating with them the term of the operations," she said.
Chikwe said privately-owned airlines in Nigeria wishing to fly international routes would soon be given the opportunity to do so.
She said the government would, however, put in place stringent measures to ensure that the private airlines that would win the routes would be "strong" airlines that could compete favourably even with the national carrier and other airlines from other countries.
Meanwhile, Nigeria Airways has laid off 1000 of its estimated 4000 workers, in a major job rationalisation preceding the privatisation programme.
The job rationalisation is a fall-out of recommendations of a committee set up by the government to explore ways of reviving the sick firm.
Last year, President Olusegun Obasanjo said the government would take a "final decision very soon" on the future of the airline.
He said the situation in which he found the debt-ridden airline when he assumed office in May 1999 left much to be desired.
Obasanjo said the future of the airline was one of the issues his administration would have to resolve quickly, in its bid to further develop and modernise Nigeria's problematic, but potentially rich, aviation sector.
Nigeria Airways, with debt put at $70m, is one of the public enterprises slated for privatisation under an International Monetary Fund programme.