Nigeria to buy aircraft for private domestic operators

There are too few aircraft to cater to the over 160 million Nigerians

In a unique move to salvage the ailing airline industry, the Federal Government has said it has concluded plans to purchase airplanes for domestic airline operators.

The Federal Government said it decided on this approach because earlier plans to salvage the industry failed. The government is already negotiating with potential aircraft manufacturers for the airplane deal.

President Goodluck Jonathan had at the last Presidential Media Chat lamented the problems in the domestic airline industry. Many of the local airline companies folded up with some going bankrupt. The existing ones all have some form of financial difficulty or the other. The president said his administration was determined to resolve the challenges faced by the airlines.

The plan

This new plan by the Federal Government to purchase the aircrafts for the companies was disclosed by the Managing Director of the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, George Uriesi.

Mr. Uresi said this in Brazil when he visited a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer Brazil, a statement by the spokesperson of the Minister of Aviation, Joseph Obi, said.

Mr. Uriesi said the Nigerian government plans to assist its domestic airlines by helping them acquire new aircrafts to increase their fleet. He said the government plans to engage the services of reputable aircraft manufacturers around the world to achieve the goal.

“In this regard, government is seeking a partnership with Embraer that will lead to a discussion on how these new aircraft will be procured at very competitive, fair, and concessionary rates”, Mr. Uriesi told the Brazilian company officials.

He said the federal government intends to create a fund for the acquisition of the aircrafts for its domestic airlines. He explained that the government took this decision when earlier plans failed to do misappropriation and poor management.

The intervention fund

The Federal Government had earlier put in place an intervention fund where domestic airline operators could access to get funds for their operations such as buying of aircraft.

Mr. Uriesi said the funds were not properly utilised.

“Intervention fund by the federal government in the past to assist them re-fleet has failed because there was no evidence of the money being ploughed back into the airlines leading to them failing in the long run,” he said.

Till now, nobody has been punished for the improper utilisation of the over N86 billion released as airline intervention funds.

The FAAN boss also spoke about use of inappropriate equipment by domestic airlines as a major cause of their problems.

“Domestic Carriers use wrong equipment for most of their operations,” Mr. Uriesi said. “There is no established record of sustainability for these airlines mainly because of the use of wrong equipment.

Brazilian aircraft operator responds

The preliminary talks, which opened last weekend in Brazil, had the Embraer team led by the Senior Vice President, Operations, Luis Affonso.

In his response, Mr. Affonso said that the African market is an important one, and that market indicators show that the number of aircraft in the continent would double in the next few years.

“Nigeria will certainly be leading this expansion in Africa and we will be very delighted to be part of that growth and expansion,” Mr. Affonso said.

He said Embraer manufactures effective and low operating cost aircraft that will suit the Nigerian market, adding that once the needs of the domestic carriers are determined, the company can manufacture equipment that will be custom-made for the region.

Mr. Affonso also said that the company “is more than willing” to open production lines to Nigerian airlines’ requirements, adding that a partnership can be worked out by both parties to advance the cause.

Both parties agreed to continue discussions about the partnership in the coming days

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