Domestic operators reject Ethiopian Airlines as national carrier

Domestic operators have kicked against the partnership between Ethiopian Airlines and the Federal Government, which makes the East African operator as the core investor in the proposed Nigeria Air.

On Wednesday, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and some domestic operators argued before the Senate endlessly over the partnership between the Federal government and Ethiopian airlines in the establishment of a National carrier, which is set to take effect in December 2022.

Some of the stakeholders present were the Vice President, Airline Operators, who is also the Chairman/CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema; former president of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, who is also the President of Top Brass Aviation, Roland Iyayi.

They told the Senate Committee on Aviation that the partnership would ground the activities and send the domestic airlines into extinction.

Onyema, who spoke on behalf of the industry players, said what Ethiopian Airlines had decided to do was to enter into the Nigerian market and reduce its prices to the detriment of the local operators over a period of six months.

He said that Ethiopian Airlines would take over 60 per cent of the market share in the industry.

He said, “It is our belief that the six months period would lead to the liquidations of several domestic carriers. The Ethiopian Airlines/Nigeria Airlines Limited partnership may appear good initially but in the long run, it would have ripple effects on the local airlines whose market would have been decimated.

“In no distant time, the local airlines would be out of the market, leaving only Ethiopian Airlines and a few others flying the Nigerian space. This would skyrocket the prices of flights because the demands would be higher than supply.”

He added, “Already, domestic airlines in Nigeria have ordered over 40 brand new aircraft. The effect of this is that all the Nigerian banks that had extended credits to the airlines would also be in trouble.

“Ethiopian Airlines wanted to be the National Flag Carrier while we have domestic airlines in Nigeria that are well-equipped to fly international routes.

“Let us consider our own first because charity begins at home. Anything that would stand the test of time must start from home. Ethiopia does not have any agenda to grow Nigeria. They want to practice Aviation colonization in Africa.”

Onyema noted that if Ethiopian Airlines was allowed to come in on a silver platter, then the safety of local airlines was no longer guaranteed.

He said, “Our local airlines, after they had been decimated by an airline owned 100 per cent by the Ethiopian government?

“It is a deliberate policy of the Ethiopian government to make the proposal because aviation is their major export. It is possible for the Mohammadu Buhari administration to leave a good legacy behind, not one that would kill the local airlines in Nigeria.

“We are hereby appealing to the administration through the Minister of Aviation to have a rethink on the policy because it is not going to serve Nigeria any good.

“A strategic partner cannot be a competitor on the continent. Domestic airlines should be allowed to grow in order to develop.

“Already, Ethiopian Airlines is asking for a 15-year tax holiday when no Nigerian carrier has been given a one-year tax holiday.”

Article first published on the Punch Website

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