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Nigeria Air: Ministry removes Sovereign Fund Authority from investors list

By Wole Oyebade
27 September 2022   |   3:42 am
Barely 24 hours after it reeled out shareholders of the new national carrier, the Ministry of Aviation has dramatically delisted the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA)

[FILES] Hadi Sirika

Stakeholders express cautious optimism on new airline

Barely 24 hours after it reeled out shareholders of the new national carrier, the Ministry of Aviation has dramatically delisted the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) from the list of investors.

The ministry described the earlier inclusion of the national investment body as an “inadvertent error of inclusion”.

Meanwhile, stakeholders have continued to express cautious optimism about the prospects of the new carrier.

Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), a think-tank group of the aviation sector, though warmed up to the partnership with Ethiopian Airlines, bemoaned the government’s stake and designating the airline as a “national carrier” that would not guarantee a level playing field for private operators.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Friday, stated that Nigeria Air was on course to reality following the completion of a three-month-long Request for Proposal (RFP) under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Act, and a painstaking selection process.

Sirika said: “After a careful, detailed and ICRC governed selection process, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Consortium has been selected as the preferred bidder, offering an owner consortium of three Nigerian investors: MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund (46 per cent), FGN owning five per cent and ET 49 per cent.”

But in a twist of events, Special Assistant to the Minister, James Odaudu, said the NSIA was included in error.

Odaudu stated that “our attention has been drawn to the inadvertent inclusion of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) as part of the private investors in the Nigeria Air project.

“We wish to clarify that the Authority is not involved, in any way, as part of the private equity ownership of the airline, being a government establishment.

“It should be noted that the NSIA was not mentioned in the Minister’s presentation, but only in the general brief given to the media, an error made during its preparation,” he said.

The NSIA is a Nigerian establishment that manages the Nigeria Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF), into which the surplus from Nigeria’s oil sales is deposited.

President of the ASRTI, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, noted that the country made the right choice of technical partner in ET, for purposes of Code Share Agreement (CSA), Blocked Seats Agreements (BSA), the airlines’ robust maintenance facility, its varied fleet, benefits of manpower training and personnel exchanges.

“ET as an African partner is inward-looking and it is very good for the implementation of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) under African Continent Free Trade Agreements (AfCFTA).

“The only caveat, which has been printed repeatedly, is that the five per cent government ownership (our commonwealth) may not be necessary after all, since the government is mid-wifing a privately owned airline. It is a general contention that ‘government has no business in business due to incessant political interferences.

“It is also expected that the carrier should not be treated as a ‘more flag carrier’ than all others like Air Peace that are already flying the flag. I want to discountenance the National Carrier nomenclature because no one single airline can quickly and easily reciprocate all Nigerian bilateral agreements. About two or three strong carriers can do that. The playing field must also be levelled for all flag carriers in the interest of Nigeria aviation,” Olowo said.