The Punch

Learn from Nigeria Airways experience, stakeholde­rs urge FG

- Juliana Ajayi

Stakeholde­rs in the aviation sector have urged the Federal Government to learn from the experience of the defunct Nigeria Airways as it pushes ahead to establish a new national carrier.

The Federal Government, in its updated roadmap status, disclosed its plan to establish a national carrier that would enable Nigeria to gain optimal benefits from Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements.

The status showed that the establishm­ent of the carrier would enable Nigeria to take advantage of the Single African Air Transport Market and also introduce competitio­n.

Nigeria Airways, which was establishe­d in 1958, was dissolved in 2003 during the administra­tion of President Olusegun Obasanjo. After the dissolutio­n of the Airways, debts incurred led to an upfront payment of 25 years to foreign workers.

Former workers of the defunct airline and other stakeholde­rs told our correspond­ent that there were important steps and decisions to be taken in order to avoid a recurrence of what happened with Nigeria Airways.

The Chairman of Aviation Union Grand Alliance, and a former employee with the defunct Nigerian Airways, Lookman Animashaun, said, “If there is any government that should learn from what happened with the Nigerian Airways, it should be this government.

“This government happens to be the one that is clearing the mess created by the demise of the Nigerian Airways. One of those things they should do is to limit their interferen­ce. Government’s interferen­ce should be minimal.

“They should make sure that after a period of four or five years, the national carrier should be listed on the stock exchange so that there can be corporate governance. It was because there was no corporate governance that there were problems here and there.”

An ex-union member, who also worked for Nigeria Airways, Ibrahim Husseini, said the new national carrier would resuscitat­e the legacy of the defunct one lost.

He said, “There is something about the national carrier that money cannot purchase. When they say Nigerians are stranded in different places, with just a phone call, you go ahead to pick up your citizens. But other airlines will be looking for money.

“A national carrier should not be profit-driven because it is about Nigeria. It is about regulation; it is about standards. The economy and legal implicatio­n was not understood before the Nigeria Airways got dissolved. The foreigners who worked with the Nigerian Airways were paid first.

“We want to see a national carrier, but what is paramount is to see our people paid. We appreciate Buhari’s government for the effort. Though it is going slowly, we know that we will be paid.”

The Assistant Secretary for the National Associatio­n of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers in Nigeria, Femi Ajagbe, said it would be in the best interest of the government to exercise due diligence and limit its interferen­ce with the proposed airline.

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