Aviation unions in Nigeria have threatened to truncate the birth of the new carrier few hours after Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation, unveiled the name and logo of the proposed national carrier, ‘Nigeria Air’, in faraway Farnborough, United Kingdom
This is because the unions have expressed doubt about the sincerity of the Federal Government on the new national carrier.
General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) Comrade Olayinka Abioye, in an interview with newsmen warned that until the government paid the final severance package of the staff of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, the unions in the sector would ensure that the plan did not come to fruition.
According to Abioye, the unions have resolved that before the government can commence a new national carrier, the severance package of the former workers must be paid in full, stressing that the government had not been fair to the workers.
He also explained that the planned new national carrier, which the government is planning is contrary to its earlier position on the establishment of a new national carrier.
Abioye stated that the government had planned to establish for the nation a private sector-driven airline. He noted, however, that so far no investor known to any member of the public has signified interest in that regard.
He said, “We are not concerned about this new national carrier even though it is our baby with supposed benefits to the country.
“We are much more concerned about the families of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, some of whom have died.
“We are much more concerned about those who are living and managing to live and we are calling on this minister and government to speed up action in whatever capacity they can to ensure that Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance, make releases and pay our people. Enough is enough.
“The unions may truncate the process of the new national carrier; you can take that from me. There are so many fundamental issues begging for answers in some of these things.
“The national carrier that we are advocating for is not what they are planning now. We said private sector-driven national carrier, what is the problem with this government?
“The same government that said it didn’t have money to revamp our comatose airports is now spending $308 million as take-off grant for the airline.
“The same government wants to bring in six new aircraft from God-knows-where. Where then is the intervention of the private sector in all these?
“At what point is private sector going to be involved? These are issues that should be tackled. Then, how do you want to unveil a national carrier and take it overseas, leaving Nigeria behind. Those politicking are too much and we are not interested.”
Also, President Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Illitrus Ahmadu, described the coming of the airline as a welcome development.
He insisted that Nigeria requires a strong carrier to make use of its Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) arrangements.
He lamented that none of the existing private airlines in the country could compete even on the African continent despite the array of opportunities in the Nigerian market.
He added: “Initially, the government said it was going to be private sector driven, but you can see the government in the vanguard of the entire exercise.
“I don’t know the form the new airline is going to take. A fully private sector airline can compete if the right management and right portfolio are in place, you can drive such an airline to success.
“Most national airlines you see today are enjoying one form of subsidy or the other from their governments. You know the exigencies of the industry we are in. We are a high risk industry with multiple factors affecting us.”
Also, former Director of Operations, Nigeria Airways Capt. Dele Ore said the proposed airline looks like a profitable venture, but said for the airline to become profitable, the right people must be placed at the helms of affairs.
He, however, called on the government to pay the severance packages of the former workers of the national airline, saying most of the affected staff today, did put in their best to ensure the survival of the airline, but it was ran aground by government and its appointees.
“I don’t know if the money would be paid or not. When it will be paid, I don’t know. I have never worked in any other sector in my life. I came into aviation at the age of 22 years and I put in about 30 years and I am still here now. But, the industry has not been fair to some of us,” he lamented.
Sirika had on Wednesday in London unveiled the name and logo of the new national carrier.
Speaking at the event, Sirika said this was an important day for Nigeria, stressing that unfortunately the nation had not been a serious player in aviation for a long time.
He added that the latest initiative is private sector-led and driven, insisting that the airline was a business entity and not a social service.