The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has threatened to ‘truncate’ “Nigeria Air”, the new national carrier that was launched by the federal government in London.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, unveiled the name and logo of the airline at the Farnborough International Public Airshow in London on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, promising that it’ll be private sector-led and driven.
Hours after the unveiling, NUATE’s General Secretary, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, said the federal government’s new airline cannot properly kick off until the severance package of the staff of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, have been paid.
Nigeria Airways originally commenced operations in August 1958 but was liquidated by former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, in May 2003.
Abioye also expressed concerns about the government’s level of involvement in the airline despite its public claims that it will not be involved in the operations of the airline.
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.”
President of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Illitrus Ahmadu, was more accommodating of the federal government’s unveiling of the carrier, urging that it should have the right management.
He said, “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.”
While speaking at the unveiling of the airline on Wednesday, Sirika said it’ll create economic opportunities and jobs for Nigerians.
He noted that the government will not own more than 5% of the new national carrier and will not be involved in running it or deciding who runs it.
He also disclosed that 81 routes (domestic, regional and international) have been identified for the airline which is touted to promote Nigeria’s cultures and traditions. The new airline is scheduled to commence operations in December 2018.