A consortium led by Ethiopian Airlines is the preferred bidder for shares in new Nigerian airline. The rebranded Nigeria Air is looking to take off nearly 20 years after its predecessor collapsed.
Relaunching a national airline was one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2015 election campaign promises.
It came a step closer to reality on Friday with the country’s aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, announcing a shareholding plan.
Ethiopian Airlines will own a 49 percent stake in the new airline, while the Nigerian Sovereign Fund will take 46 percent and the Nigerian federal government the remaining 5 percent.
Nigeria Air would have an initial capital of $300 million and plans to have 30 aircraft within four years, he said.
Nigeria Air plans to take to the air before the end of the year and will launch with a service between the capital Abuja and Lagos, the commercial capital, and add other routes later.
“We are going to initially bring in six Boeing 737 aircraft and between [the] third and fourth year the airline will be able to acquire up to 30 aircraft,” Sirika said.
“Nigeria Air is a limited liability company that will have no government intervention,” he added.
Completion of the deal is subject to negotiating the final terms and approval by Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council. The process could take up to eight weeks, Sirika said.
The country’s previous national carrier, Nigeria Airways, was founded in 1958 and wholly owned by the government. But due to mismanagement it became burdened with debt and went bust in 2003.
Successive governments have tried to revive a national airline, but with no success.
Since returning to power in 2015, Buhari has been looking to relaunch a national carrier and develop the country’s aviation infrastructure – currently seen as a barrier to economic growth – to create a hub for West Africa.
Nigeria Air was introduced to the public in 2018 at the Farnborough Air Show in Britain, but its launch was suspended shortly afterwards with no explanation.
Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s biggest airline with significant shares in Zambia Airways, Guinea Airways, Chad Airlines and Air Malawi.
Presidential elections are due in February 2023 and while Buhari cannot stand for re-election, the revival of a national carrier under his watch could put a shine on his legacy.