Waiting For National Carrier
Category : General
Waiting For National Carrier
By Ofonime Essien
When the news broke that, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Federal Ministry of Aviation to as a matter of urgency expedite action for the establishment of national airline, otherwise called National Carrier; I was hesitant and wondered why the sudden volte-face. It was with this emotion that I stayed glued to my television for the late evening news wherein the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Aviation, Binta Bello confirmed the information thus: “Mr. President is quite concerned about the absence of national carrier for now and has directed the ministry to look into the possibility of having a one as soon as possible”.
The news was great all the same. But one is full of skepticism that the President Muhammadu Buhari that made it clear on one of his interviews that air transport is not his priority like rail and road transports is having a rethink. He had said air transport is for the elite and this caused some apprehension among pilots who felt that the ‘change’ mantra is not for them. Once again, Nigeria is going to have a National Airline of its own as distinct from the near scam former Minister for Aviation, Stella Oduah wanted to lure us into.
The excitement and anxiety trailing the announcement are quite understandable: excitements from the growing number of pilots that live in a lurch, searching jobs and waning in confidence; and the anxiety from some private airline operators that see no future with a national airline.
Indeed, the fears of these private operators are baseless. The Nigerian airspace can accommodate sixteen to seventeen airlines fully operating at any given time. And some Nigerians think that having a national carrier after twelve years without one amounts to a cosmetic measure that we can’t afford, considering the reason that led to its privatization in the first place – mismanagement. It’s very unfortunate, however, to have the impression that the mission of resuscitating the national airline is dead on arrival, because it’s Nigerians that will still run it.
But to make a difference this time, a government-private partnership could be the way out. Our hope, notwithstanding our fears, is for it to work. After all, most of the existing airliners seem not the solution; some not even an option to the plight of the entire aviation industry. Whereas the few that are helping are overwhelmed, it’s only national carrier that can solve or reduce the lingering unemployment of pilots and other professionals – a situation that is getting worse by the day for both the fresh and experienced pilots. Such a situation does not bode well particularly for the fresh pilots who just left the training schools and are compelled to hawk their curriculum vitaes from airline to airline in a manner of speaking, trying to sell ice to the Eskimos.
In truth, not all national carriers are profitable. But they form part of the social responsibility of the government and give the country and citizens a sense of national pride. Kenyan and South African airlines are examples; Ethiopian Airline and Egypt Air are doing real good. Good management is a panacea to success and profitability in any business. As such, the Federal Government should make it flexible for genuine investors to participate, with special legislation giving the management the mandate to operate freely as if privately owned without interference.
Source: Mubarak A Labo