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Nigerian Airways, coming very close to re-emergence

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TO MANY a patriotic Nigerian, it is a graceful experience to behold an aircraft with the inscriptions,’ Nigerian Airways’ taking off into the skylines for a journey or descending from the airspace after a successful journey.

The green and white super carrier evokes a particular euphoria from citizens. The airline which was founded in August 23, 1958 commenced operation on October I, 1958 but ceased operations in 2003 as a result of gross mismanagement.

A significant milestone was only recorded in the history of the airline in1983 when it acquired four new Boeing 737 from American aircraft manufacturing company,’ Boeing’  to replace leased ones in her fleet.

The centrality of Nigeria in sub Sahara African economy behooves her to wield great powers in many sectors with the aviation presenting great platform for the exertion of the country’s prowess in the sector.

At the existing international airports across the country, it is disheartening that no sight of their air carriers are seen for close to two decades while foreign and private airlines dominate the space  with regular trips and  enormous profit to their credit at the expense of Nigeria’s laxity.

When the issue is about aviation, great number of Nigerians may not be so concerned given that such population neither have the financial muscles to engage in aviation transportation either as consumers or investors, nor good knowledge of its impact in the overall economic growth of the country.

By and large, the near absence of middle class in the socioeconomic stratification has made air travel an exclusive reserve for the rich. But beyond this, the poor still have stake in the multiplier effect. This is premised on the fact that if the revenue generated from aviation is deployed to improve other sectors that require interventions, like the road and rail transportation systems in the country, the poor have a lot to benefit from the programme. This is what the Nigeria government undermines at a time unemployment is hitting record high.

To limit air transportation to a relative level raises concerns on how policies are prioritized in Nigeria. Considering the obvious economic benefits and the herculean road transport system in the country due largely to horrible state of road facilities across many parts of Nigeria, air transport is expected to provide alternative to save loss of manpower and revenue in the economic chain.

At the international arena, the country’s major international airports boom with aviation related activities. This has boosted employment as well as revenue for the country and other investors.

At the Muritala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, the flagships of Ethiopia (Ethiopian Airlines, Germany (Lufthansa Air), France (Air France), United Kingdom (British Airways), Kenya (Kenya Airways), Egypt (Egypt Air) to mention just a few of the many international airlines operating in the country’s air space;  make routine landings and take offs while passengers continue to surge in search of their services.

It is surprising that Nigerian airways has been conspicuously  missing at this stage right inside their territory.

The consequences became colossal loss of revenue and capital flight. Then, these questions bug the mind, “what was the real issue with the Nigerian airways that forced it out of operation? How were the policy makers and executors that drove the national carriers out of operation handled and what lessons have been learnt from their mismanagement culture to relaunch a more effective national carrier into the airspace?

Ethiopia is an African country in the eastern sub Sahara region. It boasts not of much natural mineral resources compared to Nigeria, South Africa, Gabon, Angola and her other African counterparts, yet they have kept their economy afloat by turning their aviation industry into goldmine which nature denied them.

This sector has proven to be the main source of their revenue over time. One would then wonder why Nigeria cannot replicate the feat of Ethiopia, given the vast human resources at her disposal. Ethiopians annual revenue stood at 135.53 billion dollars as at July 2018 with  their airlines contributing 89.1 billion dollars to it.

The Charles DeGaul International Airport in Paris typifies how effective management can help build a country’s revenue base, away from the much revered oil and diamond. Heathrow Airport in England and many more have leveraged on the lucrativeness of the aviation industry to rake-in tremendous revenue into their economy.

Indications show that Nigeria government is now making moves to revive the sector with investment plan worth 11.7 billion dollars for the procurement of about 100   Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircrafts. Reports reveal that federal government is collaborating with a new Lagos based airline, Green Africa  Airways and Boeing company in the current deal which Nigeria has fulfilled her first phase of payments obligations.

Issues arising remain; Boeing 737 MAX has come under severe criticism the world over following its record of crashes in recent time. The Ethiopian airline crash that killed all 157 people on board in  March 10, 2019 was MAX 737 MAX 8, another Indonesia airline crash that killed all persons on board this year was also the 737 MAX 8 spec.

This has forced the aircraft manufacturing company to accept retrieving all the aircrafts from purchase customers across the world following universal outcry for re-examination of the error in Boeing 737MAX8. Will Nigeria renegotiate the deal for a safer operation or would it wind down to done deal?

Nigerian government should do well to come out clean in all negotiations and implementation of charters binding them with other global nations. It is time the entire Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other bodies regulating air operations in the country be handled by proven experts that can deliver at the biggest stage to help put the country at safer ground when negotiations of this magnitude come up.

Anambra State airport project is on board currently. Where will that leave ndi-Anambra? Considering the business potential of Anambra, only the cargo operations of their airport facilities can give the state stupendous lift in revenue earnings.

In the face of such inherent opportunity, It is expected that they learn from the federal government’s goofs and structure its airport operations inline with probity and sound management.

While Otuocha in Aguleri may not be so familiar with some Nigerians and beyond, by the time Anambra airport comes into operation, not just Nigeria, but Africa and the rest of the world will know the towns of Aguleri, Umuleri and entire Omambala in Anambra State.

With the success story of  disaster devastated Ethiopia in their aviation programme, the failure of Nigeria in making her aviation industry the leading force on the continent is simply inexcusable and a big dent on the country’s big image.

However, the remarkable facelifts some of the airports in the country have received in recent time give hopes that the sector will compete squarely with her counterparts in time to come.

Anambra State promises to be a showpiece in aviation business when it completes the processes, it is only left for time to tell, whether truly, determination and commitment to service can make the desired difference.

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