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Aviation unions doubt FG’s sincerity on new national carrier, Nigeria Air

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Barely 24 hours after Minister of State for Aviation, Capt Hadi Sirika made public the name and logo of the proposed national carrier, ‘Nigeria Air’, at the ongoing Farnborough Airshow in London, leading trade unions in the sector have started expressing doubt on the sincerity of the Federal Government in the survival of the carrier.

The unions doubtful mood on the scheme, according to the General Secretary of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Olayinka Abioye stemmed from the shrouded way and manner government has been pursuing the project without detailed explanations to Nigerians on who are really the core investors.

He said it will be impossible for government to say that it has only five per cent stake and it has gone ahead to give name and logo to the company, no office apartment and no private sector operator is part of the steering committee.

According to him, it is hard to believe that an airline company that had concluded arrangements to begin operations in December does not know its core investors.

On the other hand, NUATE scribe stressed that it will amount to human right let down and abuse of extant labour laws for government to be silent on clearing unpaid severance package of the staff of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways.

Abioye hinted that the unions have resolved that before the government can commence a new national carrier, the severance package of the former workers must be paid in full, stressing that the government had not been fair to the workers.

He argued that government has demonstrated lack of trust in turning around to dump the way and manner it had told Nigerians it will follow in establishing a new national carrier which is opening up the drive for investors from within to outside the country.

According to Abioye, federal government had planned to establish for the nation, a private sector-driven airline, but so far no investor known to any member of the public has signified interest in that regard and the same government had gone ahead to unveil name and logo.

NUATE averred that “We are much more concerned about the families of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, some of whom have died.

“We are much more concerned about those who are living and managing to live and we are calling on this minister and government to speed up action in whatever capacity they can to ensure that Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance, make releases and pay our people. Enough is enough.

“The unions may truncate the process of the new national carrier; you can take that from me. There are so many fundamental issues begging for answers in some of these things.

“The national carrier that we are advocating for is not what they are planning now. We said private sector-driven national carrier, what is the problem with this government?

“The same government that said it didn’t have money to revamp our comatose airports is now spending $308 million as take-off grant for the airline.

“The same government wants to bring in six new aircraft from God-knows-where. Where then is the intervention of the private sector in all these?

“At what point is private sector going to be involved? These are issues that should be tackled. Then, how do you want to unveil a national carrier and take it overseas, leaving Nigeria behind. Those politicking are too much and we are not interested,” Abioye stressed.

Though the leader of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Illitrus Ahmadu saw the development as good for the nation, he queried that “I don’t know the form the new airline is going to take. A fully private sector airline can compete if the right management and right portfolio are in place, you can drive such an airline to success”.

Also, Capt. Dele Ore, former Director of Operations, Nigeria Airways, said the proposed airline looks like a profitable venture, but said for the airline to become profitable, the right people must be placed at the helms of affairs.

Ore further joined other experts to call on the government to pay the severance packages of the former workers of the national airline

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