The Senate has said Nigeria Air cannot take off without the National Assembly having a say in it.
The Senate, through its aviation committee, stated this on Thursday in an interactive session with stakeholders in the aviation industry.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Biodun Olujimi, reminded the stakeholders that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had at the last interactive session given a roadmap for the ministry and promised that the airline would be launched in December before it would go public.
“He told us that there would be a launch of the Nigeria Air but the launch never took place and all of a sudden, we heard that the minister announced that Nigeria Air will go up before the 29th of May amidst many other issues that are currently affecting the aviation industry.
We have thought the minister would be here to give an answer to these issues based on his last presentation because we need to have comments on the current situation because there is no way an airline will start operation without the National Assembly having a say in it and being able to verify that what is being sold to the public is real and genuine and nothing is currently before the National Assembly. The minister said the project would be launched in December 2022 when he came to see us in October but the project wasn’t launched.
“We don’t have a position on the issue of trapped funds and we were shocked when the president intervened on the issue of Emirates and Emirates took it upon themselves to ridicule Nigeria by saying, no, they are not coming back. We need to know what is happening,” she added.
Olujimi also noted that the Senate had it on good authority that there was a court injunction involving the Federal Government and local carriers under the name Airline Operators of Nigeria preventing the ministry from going on with the national carrier.
What is the status of this injunction,” she queried.
In his response, the minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr Emmanuel Meribole, told the Senate that the launch of the airline was disrupted by court injunctions.
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He said, “You’d recall in October that he gave us a roadmap on how to achieve the Air Nigeria project and that was without the encumbrances of the court process.
“I am happy the stakeholders did tell us why we chose the Ethiopian Airline groups which were expected to have 49% and the government 5% and other local investors will get 46% making it 51%, and why we used this mode was because of the former Nigeria Air that had issues or the Nigerian highway that had issues. However, contrary to our expectation of launching it, the airlines took us to court.”
Meribole explained that one of the court injunctions was to stop negotiations between the ministry and Ethiopian Airlines pending the conclusion of the matter.
He added, “However, that did not stop other things. In December, just before the court case, we needed a master agreement; we needed the air operators’ certificate.
“For the pilots that are here and for the airline to fly, one of the things you do is to submit to the regulatory agency, which is the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, which was submitted on the 21st of December shortly before the court case. Also, we sent a list of critical manpower vis-à-vis the manual of operation, all these we have done.”
The permanent secretary said. “What the court case has just done is to say, ‘Stop the negotiations with Ethiopian Airlines till you complete the court cases.’ It started in Lagos and as of yesterday, it has been moved back to Abuja and they gave us another date in April for the determination of the case. We are hopeful that if we vacate that, what is remaining is serving the aircraft in Nigeria.”
The ministry noted that Ethiopian Airlines had promised to bring in six Boeing 737 and two Boeing 787 to Nigeria.