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Aviation Minister Suspends Nigeria Air Project, Hailed for Courage



The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has earned praise from the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) for his bold decision to halt the controversial national carrier project, Nigeria Air. According to a statement released by Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, the spokesperson for AON, the minister’s actions have demonstrated exceptional courage and a deep sense of patriotism.

AON further indicated that the minister’s intervention has not only spared Nigeria from potential humiliation within the global aviation community but has also underscored his commitment to transparency. This move is particularly significant, considering that, beyond the aviation industry stakeholders, anyone who closely followed the developments surrounding the Nigeria Air project during the previous administration could discern that it was poorly conceived and lacked transparency.

According to AON, it remained a mystery to Nigerians why the processes of actualising such a major national project were shrouded in secrecy until the end of the last government.

  • AON said: “By this action, the minister has displayed rare courage and great patriotism to save Nigeria from further embarrassment in the aviation world.
  • “Aside from stakeholders in the aviation industry, it was evident to everyone who had followed developments around the Nigeria Air project under the immediate past administration that the idea was not only ill-thought-out but also lacked any modicum of transparency.
  • “It was therefore no surprise that the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, which investigated the process and purported launch of Nigeria Air on Friday, June 2, 2023, described it as a ‘fraud’. It remains a puzzle to Nigerians why the processes of actualising such a major national project were shrouded in almost utter secrecy until the end of the last government.”

Okonkwo expressed the optimism that by suspending the project to allow for a thorough review, Keyamo would put things right and help restore Nigeria’s image in the global aviation family.

The statement insisted that it was not right to float a national carrier on the terms set out by the last aviation minister, alleging that this was positioned to undermine and destroy the aviation sector in Nigeria with Ethiopian Airlines waiting on the wings for a total takeover.

The body passed a vote of confidence on Keyamo, saying he had the right vision for the development of the sector, which was driven by public interest considerations for the good of Nigerians.

  • “Again, the AON commends the minister for the great leadership he has shown so early in his tenure and pledges our unalloyed support in his quest to reform the aviation sector and implement other components of the aviation roadmap for the overall good of the Nigerian economy,” the statement said.

Keyamo at the tour of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos facility on Thursday, had said that the national carrier and airport concession projects remained suspended until he got full briefings on the two projects.

Keyamo insisted that the two projects must be transparent for Nigerians to benefit from them, maintaining that once they were short of transparency, the government would take decisive actions on them.

He explained that he, as the minister, was responsible for the feelings of Nigerians on the two projects.

He insisted that the government was very responsive to the Nigerian people, saying that the two projects were a commonwealth of Nigerians.

As the commonwealth of the people, he insisted they must not be executed in secrecy.

  • He said: “We have only suspended some things that we keep on complaining about. We are very responsive to the feelings of Nigeria. If something is good, but it is not transparent, Nigerian people must know the processes by which you give out their commonwealth. It is the commonwealth of Nigeria and Nigerians must be aware of how you give out their commonwealth in the name of concession.
  • “It should not be kept secret. Tell the National Assembly who is overseeing us and tell the Nigerian people too and let them know through you that this process was transparent and we got the best deal for Nigerians and that is why I have directed that all of those concessions should be suspended until I brief Mr. President.”