Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, said that the government will go ahead with its partnership with the Ethiopian Airlines to run Nigeria Air despite the opposition it is currently facing from domestic operators.
Speaking at an interactive session with the Senate Committee on Aviation and the industry regulators, the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) reiterated their opposition to the choice of Ethiopian Airlines as the major investor in the Nigeria Air. Ethiopian Air holds the largest share of 49%; while the Nigerian government holds 5% share and 46% for Nigerian investors.
Vice President of AON, and also the Chairman/CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said what the Ethiopian Airlines did was to enter into the Nigerian market and reduce prices to the detriment of local operators over a period of six months and take over 60 per cent of the market share.
He said: “It is our belief that the six months period would lead to the liquidations of several domestic carrier. The Ethiopian Airlines/Nigeria Airlines Limited partnership may appear good initially, but in the long run, it’d have ripple effects on the local airlines whose market would’ve been decimated. In no distant time, the local airlines would be out of the market leaving only the Ethiopian Airlines and a few others flying the Nigerian space. This would skyrocket the prices of flights because the demands would be higher than supply.”
Hadi Sirika however wondered why AON was opposed to the national carrier Ethiopian Airlines as a strategic partner, saying they were all carried along when the project started seven years ago. He said all airline operators, including the domestic carriers were invited, and they all are aware that the Ethiopian Airlines duly won the bid calling for investments.
He said the intent was not to dissolve any business, but to help promote all businesses and provide the needed service, as well as gainfully employ Nigerians.
He said: “The fact that it is going to be a robust airline that is going to be established, that is going to have connections all over the world, it only means that the market of Nigeria which is 200 million people will begin to be the benefit of Nigerians not to the benefit of British Airways, Lufthansa and Emirates airlines of this world that are coming to take the money of Nigeria away. So the intent is noble.”