April 13, 2024

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NIGERIA AIR: Ogun Monarch Urges Avoidance of Pitfalls That Truncated Virgin Nigeria

3 min read

His Royal Highness, Oba Femi Ogunleye, Towulade of Akinale, Ogun State

….. Cautioned that no wise man should stumble twice from the same object of obstruction

By: HRH Oba Femi Ogunleye

When I first learnt of the proposal by the Federal Government of Nigeria to float another national carrier in replacement of the liquidated Nigeria Airways, I took it with a pinch of salt. My antecedent records of the government’s inconsistency and wobbling aviation policies had informed my feeling.

I am, however, further amused to learn that finally, the government has opted to partner with Ethiopian Airlines in a new package for Nigeria’s national carrier.

Nigeria Airways Limited was established in May 1959 from the ruins of West African Airways Corporation, WAAC, a joint venture of the British and West African Countries, prior to independence in the region

During its 45 years lifetime (1959-2004) that Nigeria Airways operated, it fulfilled the objectives for which it was established, i.e. (a) serve as a national flag carrier and promote the image of Nigeria; (b) provide a backup service for security and defence during the periods of national emergency (Nigerian civil war in 1967-1970).

The fleet of the airline at a time was as high as 22 with prop and jet engines and wide-bodied frames and an annual passenger carriage of about 2 million before its liquidation.

It served as a major employer of labour as its junior and senior staff reached a climax of 12,000 at a time.

Resulting from the unstable government’s management policy characterising the frequent mortality rate of Chief Executive Officers and board of governance (in 25 years, there were 16 managing directors) the airline lacked sustainable direction, stable financial outlay and management and its services below expectations.

Fleet depleted, finance base decapitated and debts ridden until it was liquidated in 2004.

Ethiopian Airlines, which today becomes the rescuers, so to say, has been 15 years on ground ahead of Nigeria Airways as it was established in December 1945.

The airline from the start, had stable management without undue interference both from its government and unseen stakeholders, making its CEOs consistently result-oriented and the airline’s services improving and expanding.

TWA, Panam, Sabena, Swissair, KLM, and British Airways, had had one connection or the other with defunct Nigeria Airways but Nigeria’s internal problems had always created a logjam.

The current arrangement with ET should not be a repeat of what happened with Richard Bryson of Virgin Atlantic which was full of deceit and propaganda from inception.

It is interesting that today’s Nigeria shareholder in the New dispensation for Nigeria Air, is SAHCOL, a one-time creation of the defunct Nigeria Airways. SAHCOL was the ground handling company hived-off Nigeria Airways, just as the Catering, Property and Printing departments were proposed during the lifetime of Nigeria Airways.

But the corruptive cacophony in the Nigerian system killed the bifurcation idea, hence they captured all the airline’s property for sale and left the airline’s staff in the limbo of perpetual poverty without pension.

It is hopeful that Hadi Sirika and his advisers will solidify the business formula bringing ET together with MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian government to run a national airline that we expect to recapture regional and international markets, stabilize the capital flight readily occasioned by the current foreign airlines, and join in reinventing good economy for Nigeria.

Let the end justifies the means!!!

His Royal Highness, Oba Femi Ogunleye, the Towulade of Akinale, was a former Director of Corporate Communications for the defunct Nigeria Airways. He writes in from Akinale in Ewekoro Local Government, Ogun State.

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