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Oduah seeks $500m for national carrier, meets Sanusi

By on July 5, 2013

In a desperate move to establish a national carrier for the country this year, the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, and other officials from the aviation sector met with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, in Abuja last week over plans to raise $500m to actualise the project.

Also present at the meeting, according to investigations by our correspondent, were the Managing Director, Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo; and Managing Director, Med-view Airlines, Mr. Muneer Bankole.

The minister had a few weeks ago promised that the proposed national carrier would begin operations in September this year.

This is coming nine years after former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration liquidated Nigerian Airways in 2003.

Sources close to the meeting between Oduah and Sanusi said the CBN governor asked the Aviation ministry to meet some commercial banks to get certain things clarified over the $500m being sought for the proposed national carrier.

The sources said the Federal Government was already in discussion with Dublin-based Ryan Air of Ireland to enter into an agreement that would make the European carrier the technical partner of the proposed national carrier.

Unconfirmed sources said the discussion over the $500m being sought from the CBN was not fruitful and was actually deadlocked.

But the Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Joe Obi, who confirmed the meeting, however, said the discussion did not end in a deadlock.

He said, “The discussion did not end in a deadlock as you were made to understand. Discussion is still ongoing. Both the CBN and the ministry are still discussing.

“Also, we are talking with a lot of local and foreign airlines that we can make our technical partners. We have not concluded on Ryan Air. What is obvious is that we need a technical partner to make the national carrier a well-run airline.”

Asked if the September commencement date for the proposed national carrier was still feasible, Obi said the government would make known its plans very soon.

The Federal Government had been in a desperate search for investors among foreign airlines to partner with it to establish a new national carrier for over a year now.

Last year, Lufthansa German Airlines and AirFrance separately turned down offers by the government, asking them to become its partners for the proposed national carrier.

Oduah had said the proposed national carrier would be ready last December.

According to her, the funding and ownership for the new airline will not be like that of the defunct Nigeria Airways, which was wholly owned by the government.

Investigations had revealed that Lufthansa and AirFrance rejected the offer due to the inconsistency in government policies in the aviation sector, fearing that another minister might come and cancel the arrangement.

Stakeholders said the manner the government had violated its Memorandum of Understanding with British airline mogul and founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, after the setting up of Virgin Nigeria, might have also aided Lufthansa and AirFrance to reject the offer.

Stakeholders are, however, divided over the desirability of a national carrier for the country.