The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, on Monday faulted the agreement the country signed with Ethiopian Airlines on the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air.

He said it would be “irresponsible“ of the Federal Government to follow through on a deal that gives monopoly of Nigeria’s aviation industry to a foreign entity.

He further disclosed that reports had been submitted on the issue and President Bola Tinubu will determine the next step for the project.

“I cannot preempt my President. I cannot…now we have looked at all the issues and it’s before Mr. President,” Keyamo told State House Correspondents after this week’s Federal Executive Council meeting at the Aso Rick Villa.

The chances of Nigeria’s national carrier, Nigeria Air, beginning operations still hangs in the balance especially as new details about the contract resurfaced Monday.

Six months after an elaborate ceremony on May 26, 2023, to celebrate the arrival of its first aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, the airliner has remained dormant ever since.

Founded in 2018, Nigeria Air’s ownership stakes is divided among Ethiopian Airlines (49 per cent) Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (46 per cent), and the Federal Government (5 per cent).

However, Keyamo revealed that some of the details of the agreement signed with the major stakeholder in the deal, Ethiopian Airlines, required another critical look, in the interest of the nation, citing waivers and the staffing arrangements.

He said, “In the agreement, you are giving tax waivers to Ethiopian Airline coming into Nigeria. They asked for tax waivers for five years and you granted them, to come and compete with your local airline which are paying those heavy taxes.

“How? Do you want to create a monopoly? That’s why when they tell you that we want to crash price by…it’s a lie. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“The only thing that brings down prices in the commercial world is fair competition.”

He also lamented that the contract sought to cede the appointment of employees at all levels to the Ethiopian investors, a situation he lamented.

“In the agreement, they also made a proposal that they will appoint everybody; top management, everybody Ethiopian, in Nigeria, and we agreed. We agreed!” he emphasised regrettably.

However, Keyamo said all details are before the President for consideration.

“I have heard all kinds of things going on, all kinds of brickbats in the social media, but I cannot preempt my President.

“All the documents, all the reports, everything, we have forwarded to Mr. President, the issues we’ve met on the ground.

“I feel the pulse of Nigerians. Even the National Assembly raised concerns over that, and so many stakeholders. It would have been responsible to close my eyes totally to those concerns. So because of that, we suspended it, to say that let’s just look at all the issues and recommend,” he explained.

Keyamo explained that had the Nigeria Air agreement been implemented, it would have created a monopoly for Ethiopian Air, at the expense of other local airliners.

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