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National Carrier: It would have been unwise to go ahead, $3b would have been lost…..AON

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Capt. Nogie Meggsion, AON chairman

Urges FG to focus more on infrastructure development

says process was never transparent

Commends govt for the suspension

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has applauded the Federal Government for suspending the planned National Carrier Project in the interest of the nation.

In a statement, Chairman of AON, Captain Nogie Meggison said it would have been unwise for government to go ahead with it as a whooping sum of $3 billion would have gone down the drain.

“Setting up of National Carrier will cost Nigeria at least $3bn (a single B777 as of today costs about $320m.)” He therefore asked: “Is it wise and our priority as a nation to take $3bn from the Nigerian coffers today and put into a venture that will for sure go down the drain within a maximum of 5 years to establish a “National Carrier”?

“During these tough economic times, why do we want to rush and spend $3bn on an airline that we know will not make profit? We know how many Nigeria roads can be tarred with the funds. The truth is that the whole National Carrier concept is totally unsustainable and will be a drain pipe that will lead to wastage of our scarce resources”.

Meggison noted that the process was never transparency for inception as it never clearly define the role of the private investors.

“We thank President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for listening to our many calls for the idea to be suspended. In our opinion we believe the process was neither transparent nor did it clearly define the role of Private investors in the entire process.”

According to him, at this time when the country was grappling with limited funds to execute projects, it cannot afford to be wasteful with such elephant projects, “at this time of our national limited resources and struggle to recover from recession, AON would like to state that there are private Nigerian Airline Investors ready to invest and already investing heavily on the sector and only asking for a more friendly operational environment and infrastructure support”.

He added,”Bearing also in mind that the National Carrier will need an additional cash injection of $500m subsidy per year on average for the next 10 years to keep the airline afloat while about 97% of the 200 million Nigerian masses today are grappling for the basic necessities of life; food, shelter, electricity, water, education and good roads. This is corroborated by a recent CNN report stated that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 100 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.00 a day”.

According to him, there were private Nigerian Airline investors ready to invest and were already investing heavily on the sector and asking only for a more friendly operational environment and infrastructure support.

Captain Meggison appealed to government to focus on infrastructure as airlines do not make a hub but it world-class infrastructure.

“Nigeria is a natural Hub for Africa. However, airlines don’t make a hub; but it is world-class infrastructure that makes a hub. Then the airlines and airplanes will come in”.

“Today, Air Peace is Nigeria’s largest airline operator with 30 aircraft. The Airline has acquired four (4) B777 with ten (10) B737Max on order. Medview has gotten B777 and B767, while Azman Air just received an Airbus 340. These are huge positive steps and the biggest growth in Africa this quarter that needs government support, better infrastructure, low interest rates , double,taxes fewer levies, better runway landing aids among others as well as encouragement”.

The AON Chairman urged government to go back to the drawing board and engage with the private sector with transparency on how to position Nigeria as the Hub for Africa to take advantage of its God given gift of geographical location to create jobs for its teeming youths and make aviation a major economic contributor of the nation’s GDP and replace the dependence on oil alone.

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