Aviation stakeholders said on Wednesday in Lagos that the suspension of Air Nigeria project, a new national carrier, would enable the Federal Government to plan properly on how to float it to stand the test of time.
Ikechi Uko, a travel and tourism expert and Olayinka Abioye, General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, expressed the views in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had announced on Wednesday that the the Federal Executive Council had taken the “tough decision to suspend the National Carrier Project in the interim”.
Mr Uko, the promoter of the Akwaaba Travel and Tourism Market, said the move by the government was not surprising, especially as the country was approaching the 2019 General Elections.
He said: “It is not surprising because the timing was wrong. I think it is a positive thing that we do not ruin a national aspiration. The way it was going will not have yielded the desired results.
“For me, it is good news that people can now go back and plan properly.
“After the elections, we can now focus on the project with the help of other Nigerian airlines because they have to be carried along.”
On his part, Mr Abioye told NAN that a good foundation for the new national carrier was not laid, particularly as the ex-workers of the defunct Nigerian Airways were still agitating for their entitlements.
“It is a noble thing for Nigeria to have a national carrier. We stand for it and we will continue to advocate for it because the benefits are humongous.
“However, we are not surprised about the suspension because we said it loud and clear that the outstanding N45 billion entitlements of ex-Nigerian Airways workers have to be paid,” he said.
Mr Abioye added that members of the aviation unions had already staged a protest before the Acting Finance Minister, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, who had promised to look into the issue and get back to the unions.
“It is a welcome development and I think we should go back to the table and do all that is necessary.”
NAN reports that Mr Sirika had on July 18 unveiled the name and logo of the new national carrier at the Farnborough Air Show in London, United Kingdom.
Mr Sirika had stressed that the government was fully committed to fulfilling the campaign promise made by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 to establish a new national carrier to replace the defunct Nigerian Airways.
He had set December 2018 deadline for the airline to begin operations with a minimum of five aircraft.