20 September 2018. By adekunle Best
Nigeria has suspended plans to relaunch its national airline two months after the attempt to revive the carrier was announced.
Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika broke the news on Twitter after a cabinet meeting, saying ministers had made “the tough decision” to suspend the project.
Disappointed Nigerians have vented their anger on social media with the hashtag #NigeriaAir.
No reason has been given for the about-turn.
“We thank the public for the support as always,” the minister’s tweeted statement added.
Nigeria’s first national air carrier Nigeria Airways closed in 2003.
In 2004, a group of Nigerian investors and Virgin Atlantic Airways, owned by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson jointly create a new national carrier called Virgin Nigeria. Sir Branson pulled out in 2010, citing what he said was interference by politicians and regulators.
This latest airline, which was set to be called Nigeria Air, was launched with some fanfare at an international air show in the UK in July.
Nigeria Air was due to start commercial flights in December.
A promotional video for the operator gushed “now is the time to bring Nigeria even closer to the world”:
At the time the airline said it had identified 81 routes out of “more than a thousand considered”.
The plan was for the federal government to own just 5% of the airline in a public-private partnership.
The proposal was designed to allow for professional management and avoid previous mistakes.
“This will be a national carrier that is private sector led and driven. It is a business, not a social service,” Mr Sirika said at the time.
Reactions to his tweet on Wednesday announcing the suspension of the plans have been very critical: