“Among the reasons being bandied around for its suspension, especially in the social media, is the absence of interested and ready investors. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the national carrier project has an avalanche of well-grounded and ready investors," he said.
Barely 24 hours after the Minister of Information and Culture hinted that absence of investors led to the suspension of Nigeria Air, the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika has rebuffed the claim.
A statement by the Deputy Director, Media and Public Affairs, Ministry of Transport, James Odaudu, declared that the suspended national carrer project had both local and foreign investors who were willing to partner with the government to birth a new national carrier for the nation.
He also explained that the project was not terminated, but suspended in the interim by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and would take-off one day.
Lai Mohammed had told journalists at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos that the Federal Government took the decision to suspend the project until it got a "better funding structure".
Muhammed did say that some of the investors the government had expected to partner with were no longer showing interest, stressing that government did not plan to be the sole sponsor of the project, but the project was tilting towards that before it was suspended.
He said: “If the understanding of government at the beginning was that the project might be self-financing or the project would be financed by investors and you think that such a project can no longer be sponsored by investors, either because they are not forthcoming or such luncheon can no longer be viable, the government is at the discretion to take decision.
“The position of government in business is to provide the enabling environment and it is not to become the sole source of finance or funding and in addition, there is much more than funding in trying to get our national carrier. So, the Federal Government thinks this thing should be stepped down now until we get a better funding structure.”
However, Sirika denied Mohammed’s claim on the project.
The Aviation Minister mentioned some companies such as Afro-Exim Bank, African Development Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, aircraft manufacturers — Airbus and Boeing, airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Air — and some reputable individuals and entrepreneurs as among organisations that had showed enthusiasm in the national carrier.
He further stated that the government’s participation at the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom in July was not for the sole purpose of unveiling the Nigeria Air logo as claimed in some quarters, but it was a meeting point with these potential investors, who he said saw the event as another opportunity to market and re-emphasise their interests in the project.
He explained that FEC only suspended the process for the establishment of the national carrier for the time being, insisting that the project had not been killed.
The statement read: “The office of the Honourable Minister of State for Aviation has noted, with consternation, various opinions, comments and observations in the media regarding the status and the reasons for the recent suspension of the processes leading to the establishment of a Nigerian national carrier.
“Among the reasons being bandied around for its suspension, especially in the social media, is the absence of interested and ready investors. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the national carrier project has an avalanche of well-grounded and ready investors.
“It is also pertinent to clarify that the Federal Executive Council only SUSPENDED the process for the establishment of the national carrier for the time being. The project has not been killed. Theses clarifications have been made in the public interest.”