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New National Airline to begin operations October

By The Citizen
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The federal government is set to float a national carrier, seven years after the liquidation of Nigeria Airways.

It was gathered that the new carrier, to be known as 'Nigeria One,'  will be unveiled as part of the 53rd Independence  anniversary message by President Goodluck Jonathan on October 1.

It was learnt in Abuja Thursday that the airline would form its nucleus from some of the domestic airlines, including Aero Contractors and Air Nigeria.

The recent acquisition of 60 per cent stake of Aero by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), it was gathered, was a strategic step towards the actualisation of government's national carrier aspiration.

The 60 per cent stake, which led to the take over of Aero by AMCON was occasioned by the about N32 billion it owes banks.

To set the new national carrier on a sound footing, the federal government is said to be making efforts to inject about N200 billion through a transparent  private sector Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Although it was not clear what arrangement the government had reached with the owner of Air Nigeria, it was learnt that barring any unforeseen circumstances, the new airline was scheduled to commence  full operations before the end of the year.

The liquidation of Nigeria Airways in 2005 during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, against admonitions by Nigerians and international bodies, including the International Finance Corporation's (IFC's) option of privatisation, has opened the floodgate for huge capital flight at the detriment of the country.

The huge repatriation by foreign airlines, lack of capacity of domestic airlines, the futile attempt to make Lagos State a hub in the absence of a national carrier, and the wanton exploitation of Nigerian travellers by foreign airlines, as well as many other factors have further compelled the incumbent administration to look the way of a national carrier.

The government was particularly trying to use the new national carrier to reduce the huge advantage foreign carriers have enjoyed over the years through the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs).

Aero Contractors was formed in 1959 as a wholly-owned by Schreiner Airways B.V of the Netherlands. It became a company with initially 40 per cent Nigerian holding in 1973 and subsequently 60 per cent in 1976.

In January 2004, Schreiner Airways was bought by Canadian Helicopter Corporation (CHC) which acquired 40 per cent holding of Aero Contractors while 60 per cent majority share remained within the Ibru family group.

Until the acquisition of 60 per cent stake by AMCON, Aero was wholly-owned by the Ibru family.

Air Nigeria, formerly known as Virgin Nigeria was midwifed as a private airline in 2005 by the federal government with British carrier, Virgin Atlantic Airways as the core investor. However, the British carrier was to divest later, paving the way for Jimoh Ibrahim to acquire the airline and change the name to Air Nigeria.

The airline was rested last year after the owner disengaged the workers. - Thisday.