"It Was Them": Ex-Minister Hadi Sirika Says Real Owners, Not Federal Government, Unveiled Nigeria Air

"It Was Them": Ex-Minister Hadi Sirika Says Real Owners, Not Federal Government, Unveiled Nigeria Air

  • Former Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika has revealed that Nigeria Air, unveiled as the national carrier, was done by shareholders, not the federal government
  • Sirika also clarified that the government did not pay for the chartered flight used in the unveiling
  • The minister further provided insight into the ownership structure of the national carrier and explained that it is a public-private partnership project

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In a surprising twist, former Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika has revealed that the unveiling of Nigeria Air as the national carrier was carried out by shareholders, not the federal government.

Sirika made this disclosure during his appearance on Arise TV on Sunday, June 11, 2023.

During the discussion, he dismissed the notion that the Nigerian government was the actual owner of the airline, stating that it was a public-private entity.

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Nigeria Air
Ex-aviation minister Hadi Sirika denies fraud allegation against Nigeria Air. Photo credit: FG
Source: Twitter

Nigeria Air's journey

The proposed Nigeria Air project was initially announced in 2018 with the objective of establishing a national carrier to revitalise the country's aviation industry and stimulate economic growth.

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However, the project encountered several delays and setbacks, eventually leading to its suspension in 2019.

After much back and forth, Nigeria Air was finally unveiled three days before the end of President Muhammdu Buhari's administration, causing a public outcry that prompted an investigation by the House of Representatives.

Nigeria Air's management defends unveiling

When Dapo Olumide, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigeria Air, appeared before the lawmakers, he stated that the aircraft used for unveiling the national carrier was a chartered flight from Ethiopian Airlines.

Sirika supported Olumide's statement and clarified that although the plane was chartered, the government did not bear the flight cost.

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He disclosed that the real owners of Nigeria Air were a consortium of private investors, both local and international.

According to Sirika, Nigeria Air's ownership structure comprises 49% held by Ethiopian Airlines, 46% by Nigerian private investors (such as SAHCO, MRS, and other institutional investors), and 5% by the federal government.

He also explained that unveiling the single aircraft was a marketing strategy the Nigeria Air partners employed, emphasising that the national carrier would resume operations once the air operator certification (AOC) process was completed.

His words:

"Their decision to conduct this unveiling through a chartered flight was part of their own marketing strategy as equity partners.
"The term 'chartered' does not imply that they paid for it. If anyone paid for it, it would have been Ethiopian Airlines. No payment was made by the government.
"It was the consortium of the federal government, holding five percent ownership of Nigeria Air, that chose to conduct the unveiling as part of their marketing strategy.

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"Therefore, it was not the government initiating the unveiling to commence operations. Not at all. It was them who took that step, and I was invited to attend."

Furthermore, Sirika denied allegations that the unveiling of the national carrier was shrouded in secrecy, dismissing the claims as "mind-boggling and disturbing."

He stated,

"This airline was advertised during the procurement stage in The Economist and national dailies. A bidding process took place, with participation from members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) during the bidding conference."

Local airlines kick as FG unveils Nigeria Air

In another similar development, local airlines have kicked against the launch of Nigeria Air.

Their major grievance has been that the federal government chose to work with an Ethiopian airline and see it as a threat to their business.

Domestic airlines also threaten to sue the minister for the launch of Nigeria Air despite a standing order.

Source: Legit.ng

Dave Ibemere avatar

Dave Ibemere (Senior Business Editor) Dave Ibemere is a senior business editor at Legit.ng. He is a financial journalist with over a decade of experience in print and online media. He also holds a Master's degree from the University of Lagos. He is a member of the African Academy for Open-Source Investigation (AAOSI), the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and other media think tank groups. He previously worked with The Guardian, BusinessDay, and headed the business desk at Ripples Nigeria. Email: dave.ibemere@corp.legit.ng.