Africa: Merger of Aero, Arik as National carrier untenable – Sirika
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has ruled out calls for the merger of indigenous carriers Arik Air and Aero Contractors to form the new national airline for Nigeria.
Aero and Arik Airlines have been under administration by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) since two years following their collapse over debts.
The calls became necessary as the federal Government grappled with the prospects of setting up from scratch a new national carrier for the country, a move which was supposed to have kicked off with a previously scheduled December operational date, but has since been halted indefinitely by government.
Federal Government, it would be recalled, said in September, it was halting indefinitely the planned Nigeria Air project.
While insisting that there remains an urgent need for Nigeria to establish a national airline, the minister declared that the process of establishing one would soon be completed, as, according to him, the planned take-off of the project was merely suspended and not stopped.
According to Sirika, no domestic airline has evolved to fill the vacuum left by Nigeria Airways since it ceased to operate more than 15 years ago due largely to wrong business models, low capitalization and poor governance structure .
The minister added that Nigeria presently has Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs), with 83 countries, many of which have been reviewed to create opportunities for domestic carriers.
However, they remain largely unutilised, as only 10 per cent of these agreements have been used due to limited capacity.
The BASA with Qatar and Singapore were recently signed and ratified. Only 28 out of Nigeria’s BASAs with 83 countries are active.
He further said the new national carrier will give impetus to the emergence of Nigeria as hub for the West and Central Africa and will promote reliable air transport services within the region.
He also said it will support the growth of the aviation industry and domestic airlines through infrastructure expansion, traffic/routes expansion and manpower development associated with the national carrier.
Aside creating employment for teaming Nigeria youths, the new national airline will compete with foreign airlines for a share of international routes through competitive pricing thereby reducing capital flight.
“While infrastructure is necessary for the emergence of a hub, the establishment of a national carrier will give impetus to the development of a hub in Nigeria. All hubs must have National or strong carriers”, he said Sirika added that “contrary to the fear that the National Carrier will suffocate existing domestic carriers, it will rather benefit them and the industry at large. It will assist in stimulating overall air passenger travel demand, develop new routes, enhance infrastructure and promote manpower development”.