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Nigeria Air: FG insisted on our participation, if canceled, it is fine with us…ET CEO

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L-R: Retta Melaku, COO; Mr. Daniel Abebe, VP Strategic Alliance; Mr. Mesfin Tasew, Group CEO; Mr. Genanaw Assefa, VP Legal

..Our intention is to help

The Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Mr. Mesfin Tasew says, if the Nigeria Air project is cancelled it will not hurt them in anyway, after all, the Federal Government brought them in to establish a National carrier because they were told Nigerian airlines did not have the capacity.

Speaking with Nigerian journalists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian, Mr. Tasew said, “In the first place, it was not our initiative, it was the initiative of the government. Now, if the government wants us to cancel the project, it is fine with us. We have no problem. If the government want us to continue with the project, the government has to solve the legal case in court. Otherwise, we are willing to support the Nigerian government in the establishment of the national carrier. So, we leave the decision to the Nigerian government. We have no issues; we will not be disappointed if it is cancelled. We are just there to help. And if the parties ask us to help, change their mind, change its strategy, we are fine with that. This is what we told the Minister; that we respect whatever decision of the Nigerian government.

 “Because when we talked to the Nigerian government, why do you want to setup a new airline? They said they don’t have dependable airlines within Nigeria and they wanted an airline that can provide dependable service that departs and arrives on time; that doesn’t cancel flights on the domestic market and also on the international market.

According to him, ET never had intention or plan to setup an airline in Nigeria but only to do the business of flying in and out of the country, adding that, when the proposal by the Federal Government came to partner and partcipate in a bid to establish a national carrier, insisting they participate, they had to oblige.

“In May, of 2022, when I took my current responsibility (as Group CEO), a request came from the Nigerian government asking ET (Ethiopian Airlines) to participate in a bid and help the Nigerian government to setup a Nigerian flag carrier. It came in writing. Initially we didn’t want to go into that. We said we have other initiatives in other countries and we were busy. But the Nigerian government insisted that Ethiopian Airlines is an African airline, it has to help the Nigerian government in setting up the national carrier. So, we had to respect them”. 

“We couldn’t say no, we cannot come and help you. So, we had to submit proposal, we had to respect the Nigerian government. And we thought that the Nigerian government had choices, ET being one; because they had also requested other airlines in the Middle East, Europe to participate in the bid. I don’t know whether they participated or not. We submitted our proposal and we received a letter from the Ministry of Aviation, saying that Ethiopian Airlines has been selected to be a partner to setup the airline.

“Then the Nigerian government wanted the structure of investors to be Nigerian investing institutions and the Nigerian government wanted only 5 percent shares to ensure that they have presence in the airline and to facilitate the establishment of the airline. We had a lot of discussions, we agreed but we had some differences in some points. And while we were preparing the shareholder agreement, then we heard that some companies in Nigeria including airlines started defaming and objecting the establishment of the airline and defaming the name of the government and Ethiopian Airlines.

On the ET painted aircraft with the Nigeria Air logo, Tasew said, “At one point, that leadership of Nigeria Air, which doesn’t include Ethiopian Airlines, asked us to bring aircraft painted with Nigerian logo to facilitate the progress of the Air Operators’ Certificate. So, we agreed with that, we took out one of our aircraft, we painted it with Nigerian logo, we flew it, it was for demonstration by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for their inspection. So, after two days, we brought back the aircraft, repainted it with Ethiopian logo and it is flying. 

He assured ET agreeing to partner the FG of Nigeria was not to kill Nigeria airlines, saying, “Our goal is not to kill Nigerian airlines, absolutely not. We have no intention of killing Nigerian airlines. Definitely we have to setup a reliable airline, we have to provide the service that fits the needs of the Nigerian public. In fact, they have to be strong. If these airlines cannot be strong, they cannot compete. If they cannot compete, then some of them can go out of business. It is not peculiar to air transport business, in any business where there is competition. The stronger ones will grow, the weak ones will get”. dwarfed. 

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