Earlier on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at the Farnborough Air Show in London, the Nigerian government unveiled the name of the new national carrier which has been mooted for months now – Nigeria Air – which it states would begin operations by the end of the year.
The new national carrier is “fully private sector led” according to a government official, though, the government has a 5% stake in the carrier.
On the surface, it is excellent news that Nigeria can once again point to having a national carrier. For one, there’s the feeling of pride that comes with having a national carrier just as every other developed economy or ones treading a serious path towards economic development.
Secondly, there is the potential of providing employment opportunities to Nigerians, in a country where the current unemployment rate stands at 18.8%, creation of avenues with good potential to reduce the unemployment level would always be welcome.
Other than potentially providing direct employment to pilots, aeronautical engineers, air hostesses, ticketing agents, communications experts, and more, the ripple effect of people who would gain employment from the emergence of the carrier would go some way in reducing the unemployment rate in Nigeria.
Thirdly, the new national carrier can potentially improve travel within the country and to other African countries, and have a good ripple effect for Nigerian businesses in lieu of carrying out transactions in other African countries.
Meanwhile, with a thriving national carrier, Nigeria’s image on the international front could receive a much needed boost, as the sight of airplanes bearing the “Nigeria” name seeps into the consciousness of more people – it’s basic public relations in the manner of the Super Eagles kit to the just concluded FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Another area where a new national carrier brings optimism is the tourism sector of the Nigerian economy which could also enjoy the benefits should the new carrier cover the country adequately with its available routes.
And, most of all, the local aviation industry would become more competitive, potentially lead to more competitive fares, and improved service delivery owing to the entrance of a new player in the field.
All that said, however, when one begins to dig, the previous attempts at reviving the idea of a national carrier leads one to temper optimism for this latest attempt with great caution owing to the controversies and stories that touch which have crippled the idea in previous years.
There’s the heartbreaking experience involving long strike actions by workers of Air Nigeria under the ownership of Jimoh Ibrahim, and the failed Virgin Nigeria ‘joint venture’ between the Nigerian government and British billionaire, Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic.
The biggest let down was when Nigeria Airways, after years of slowly winding down, finally folded in 2003 and left many employees and pensioners’ lives being disrupted.
And with the new national carrier coming so close to the general elections holding in February 2019, it is hoped that the government stays true to leaving the operations of the carrier to the yet-to-be-identified investors or it would risk falling into the abyss of bureaucracy and failing eventually.