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Nigeria to launch new national airline next year, aviation minister says

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Nigeria has set its sight to launch a new national airline early next year and will seek to sell a minority stake to a foreign airline or financial institution, Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation, announced.

“The best case is that the airline will pick up… April 2022 if all things go equal,” Mr Sirika told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, as per Reuters.

President Muhammadu Buhari promised in his 2015 election campaign to have a national airline that Nigerians could be proud of. However, the plan has been unclear until the FG postponed it for no reason just before President Buhari’s second term re-election bid in 2018.

The minister added the new carrier will be named Nigeria Air and the government would not own more than 5%, while local entrepreneurs would hold a 46% stake.

The Federal Government has also declared that the airline will require initial capital of between $150 million and $300 million (N61b and N122b)

Nigeria had a national carrier before, Nigeria Airways, which was founded in 1958 and fully owned and operated by the government, but it stopped its operation in 2003.

Billionaire Richard Branson set up domestic and international carrier Virgin Nigeria back in 2000, but pulled out in 2010 in frustration at what Branson said was interference by politicians and regulators.

Virgin Nigeria, which was later rebranded Air Nigeria, ceased to exist in 2012 after drowning in about N35 billion of debt which left it unable to pay its staff, a former finance director of the company told Reuters at the time.

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