Chaos after Nigeria unveiled Nigeria Air using an Ethiopian Airlines plane
Speaking when he appeared before a House of Representatives committee on aviation, Dapo Olumide, Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Air, said the aircraft used for the unveiling of the national carrier was indeed a chartered flight from Ethiopian Airlines.
Olumide further revealed that the aircraft was returned to Ethiopia a mere 48 hours after the unveiling.
“It was a chartered flight,” he said. "As a chartered flight, you can paint the aircraft in any colours you want”.
“On a chartered flight, the aircraft was to come to Nigeria to Abuja and go back 48 hours later.”
Olumide also confessed that the necessary procedures for establishing a national carrier were not completed before the staged unveiling.
The aircraft took off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at 9:55 am on May 26 and landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at 12:43 p.m.
Hadi Sirika, former Minister of Aviation, unveiled Nigeria Air — the national carrier — about three days before the end of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The airline was one of President Muhammadu Buhari's 2015 election campaign promises.
Shortly after the aircraft landed, Sirika expressed delight that after “a very long, tedious, daunting and difficult path”, the project had taken off.
Olumide said the aircraft was used pending the completion of the processes required for the operation of the airline.
He said his mandate was to secure an air operating certificate for the airline not necessarily to operate it but to secure a licence to fly.
"You don’t need to have a licence to do that, you just charter an aircraft... and off you go, " he said.
“And that is what we did. But in this case, it was to unveil the logo of Nigeria Air. Ever since 2018, all you have ever seen about Nigeria Air were pictures, drawings not the real aircraft, and we thought it was time to show what the real aircraft will look like also to let shareholders see."
Thousands of Nigerians on Twitter, including popular P Square singer Peter Okoye, reacted furiously - others humorously - to the news.
"Monkey stole billions, a snake swallowed billions only in Nigeria. Now they borrowed an Ethiopian aircraft for a photo shoot worth 190 billion naira wetin remain again, dem go soon sell this country!" Mr. P tweeted.
What the authorities are not saying is that Nigeria Air and Ethiopian Airlines have a connection.
According to Reuters, a consortium led by Ethiopian Airlines was the preferred bidder for shares in the new Nigerian airline Nigeria Air, the country's aviation minister said back in September.
Ethiopian Airlines, it was revealed, will own a 49% stake in the new airline, while the Nigerian Sovereign Fund will take 46% and the Nigerian federal government the remaining 5%.
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