We need a fly Nigeria act in place- Adenekan
• FG Owed Nigeria Airways $12m For Unpaid Services Before Closure
• Govt Must Settle Nigeria Airways Ex-Workers,Repeal Act Before New Carrier
Taiwo Adenekan, an aviation and economic consultant, as well as, erstwhile economist and corporate planning officer at Nigeria Airways, in this interview with WOLE OYEBADE, said the country could attract investors to Nigeria Air with zero per cent equity, if the handlers get the processes right.
The ghost of Nigerian Airways has not been laid to rest until its former workers have been settled. Isn’t it?
Legally, the Nigeria Airways is still operating because it was set up by an Act, which has not been repealed. So, the workers all have legal rights. Creating Nigeria Air is having two national carriers on the list of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and International Air Transport Association (IATA). Nigeria Airways has not been repealed and it is still there.
So what should be done in this respect?
Repeal the Act, but pay off all former staff members. If you don’t pay them, you are creating problems for us. Fortunately, all the staff of the liquidated airline are in support because they all know we have gone round the whole world and we know what it is to have a national airline. Now, we have problems with our fans in Russia. When Nigeria Airways was here, it would have flown there overnight, and bring all of them back immediately, but there is nothing like that today.
What led to the death of Nigeria Airways, and what lessons can be drawn from that episode?
The Federal Government killed the Nigeria Airways. How can an airline have 15 managing directors in 10 years? These managing directors became political appointees and they were not growing the airline. Bad patronage from the Federal Government added to the bad scenario. As at the time we closed down, I was in the Corporate Planning Department and government owed the airline $12m for services rendered, but not paid for, in the form of used tickets and charter services.
What this airline can pick up is to ensure that the Federal Government presents to the National Assembly, a bill called the Fly Nigeria Act. You cannot say because you are government and not do the appropriate things. Take Julius Berger for instance, they have billions worth of contracts in this country. They have a flying budget for their workers. What percentage of that flying budget goes to their national carrier? That is the only way the carrier can survive. Let us have
Fly Nigeria Act in place.
Government should also review the commercial agreements signed with other international carriers and return to the frequency agreed in the BASAs. Government should pursue the Fly Nigeria Act to protect the Nigeria Air in terms of patronage and spirit of nationalism.The presidency/chairman of the board of the airline representative should be made exclusive for the Nigeria Air managing director to protect the policies and investment of the people and government of Nigeria. The airline should deploy the business model from a reputable travel network company.
The success story of Ethiopian Airlines and Turkish Air is commendable and should be emulated. The creation of regional hubs is crucial so that all airports can be operative and viable. The need to increase the aircraft utilisation is crucial to the project, just as the airline’s handlers should consider the concept of slot allocation to all operators for effective on time, real time departure. It is important to know that service is topmost and customer satisfaction is also crucial.
What is your impression of the emerging national carrier, Nigeria Air?
I want to congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari for making it a reality after 15 years. This has been an issue since 2003 till now, but this administration deserves commendations for making it nearly come true. It is an election promise and the government is also doing it properly in terms of following laid down procedures for Public Private Partnership (PPP) to get it done through the private sector.
I have my reservations though, but I think it is a home airline; our national airline and Africa’s pride. That is what we are aiming at. We should have done it a lot earlier. Making the revelation in Farnborough (in London) was good, but it is not as big as the Paris Air Show. The launch should really have been there. Aside that, I like the procedure, and I think they are looking at Qatar Air as technical partner, but it is all-good for the country. Aviation still remains the window of foreign direct investment and if they can do it and we conquer Africa, then that will be very good.
How important is a national carrier to the country at this time?
A national carrier is a window to economic development of any nation. National carriers come with a lot of security issues and pride. They reduce the capital flight facilitated by other national carriers that fly into Nigeria, and also generate their revenues from countries they operate into.A national carrier provides employment to her citizens. We really cannot quantify the benefits of one to the country.
There has been a lot of skepticism and mixed feelings about this emerging national carrier since its logo was unveiled. Are these misgivings justified?
Well, it is true because Nigerians are still worried about government’s business sense, and its involvement in commercial activities. This is about the first time that the government is trying to be transparent in doing business right in aviation sector as it followed all the rules as stated in concession regulation of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). We are witnessing an open method that is regulated by law and competitive in modality.
We are also about to witness a national airline under the PPP concept and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), bringing along finance and technology. As a stakeholder, Nigeria Air is a welcome development to improve the nation’s image, revenue, employment and increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the nation’s economy.
Do you think Qatar Air will be a solid technical partner to the new national carrier?
They have their criteria. I don’t know how they got to that level, but when we talk about technical partners, way back in 2004, Singapore Air, which has remained the best airline in the world for seven consecutive years, offered to partner Nigeria Airways with 49 per cent of the share, but the then Federal Government rejected it. Talk about Qatar Air, I have my reservations in the sense that part of the airline is managed by an airline in Germany.
Five per cent is all what the Federal Government will be contributing to the airline. Is this good enough?
The Federal Government can get an offer of zero per cent, so why is it putting in five per cent? We have already been told that they are putting in $338m to buy aircraft. Where is the money? That money can be pushed into the economy to fix a lot of things. We are ripe enough with 122 Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) already. Anybody that wants to come in here should come with his money and not for us to be buying equipment for them. That is the way I see it.
Let us look at an airline like the British Airways, which has been around for say 50 to 60 years, what is its investment here? What value are they adding to us? Emirate is already building a terminal in Senegal and doing 21 flights per week here. What is Emirate and British Airways doing here? Yet, they do seven flights out of Lagos, seven out of Abuja. Have they funded any university, faculty or school here?
Did we ask them for sponsorship and they failed?
No. If you are making $120m from my country yearly, I don’t have to ask you, but you are supposed to do it and if don’t, then I shut you down.In 1998 when the then Head of States, late General Sanni Abacha, shut down British Airways, they lost 3, 000 staff because this is their second best route after Los Angeles (LA).