Nigeria Air's Launch Has Been Suspended for Reasons Unknown
The Nigerian government announced ambitious plans to reboot its national airline at the Farnbourough Air Show this summer but has now suspended the project "in the interim" according to a tweet on Wednesday from Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika.
Sirika gave no reason for the suspension of the project and now opposition party leaders are accusing the minister of using the airline to defraud the nation of 1.2 billion Nigerian dollars ($3,380,400 USD).
"The suspension was strategic and had nothing to do with politics," Sirika said in a separate statement, according to Al-Jazeera.
Nigeria is the largest country in Africa by population and lost its national carrier, Nigeria Airways, in 2003. Since then it's seen a multitude of private airlines, including a Virgin-branded carrier, that have all shut down operations after only a few years of flying.
In July, Sirika said that the new airline, called Nigeria Air, would be a public-private partnership with a goal to commence operations by December 2018.
Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) commended the government for stopping the project, criticizing the creation of the airline for a non-transparent investment process and as a waste of national resources.
"Putting the issue into perspective, setting up of National Carrier will cost Nigeria at least three billion dollars because a single B777 Aircraft as of today costs about 320 million dollars," said Captain Nogie Meggisson, chairman of the AON.
"Is it wise and our priority as a nation to take three billion dollars from the Nigerian coffers today and put into a venture that will for sure go down the drain within a maximum of five years to establish a 'National Carrier'," Meggisson added.
In August, Ethiopian Airlines was seen as a frontrunner to operate the new airline. The Star Alliance carrier has heavily invested in a number of African airlines during the last few years to build up its presence in the continent.
Tweets mocked the non-existent airline:
It's unclear if and when efforts to launch Air Nigeria will be restarted. Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, who is up for re-election in February 2019, campaigned on bringing back the airline in 2015 when he first ran for president.