In a recent interview with Nigerian journalists in Addis Ababa, Mr. Mesfin Tasew, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, shed light on the airline’s involvement in the establishment of Nigeria Air. This marks the first time Ethiopian Airlines has publicly addressed the controversy surrounding this project.
The project, initiated by the former Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, aimed to create a national carrier for Nigeria. However, it faced significant hurdles, including legal challenges from the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), who questioned the selection of Ethiopian Airlines as the preferred partner.
Tasew explained that Ethiopian Airlines initially had no intention of setting up an airline in Nigeria but was invited by the Nigerian government to participate in the bidding process to help establish Nigeria Air. The Nigerian government insisted on their involvement, citing the airline’s African expertise.
While preparing for the project, Ethiopian Airlines was caught in a legal dispute initiated by some Nigerian companies and airlines opposing the establishment of Nigeria Air. At this point, the airline contemplated withdrawing from the project. However, the Nigerian government insisted on proceeding with the groundwork and addressing the legal challenges.
Tasew emphasized that Ethiopia Airlines did not intend to harm Nigerian airlines but rather aimed to provide a strong and reliable national carrier that would benefit the Nigerian public. The Nigerian government expressed a need for a dependable airline that would offer on-time flights and competitive fares, particularly in the domestic and international markets.
The future of the Nigeria Air project remains uncertain, with Ethiopian Airlines awaiting a decision from the Nigerian government. Tasew stated that they are open to supporting the project if the government decides to continue but will respect any decision, even if it involves canceling the project.
Ethiopian Airlines emphasized that their goal was not to eliminate Nigerian airlines but to foster healthy competition, which could ultimately lead to the growth and improvement of the Nigerian aviation industry. They expressed their readiness to provide modern aircraft, including Boeing 737 MAX, to support the project. However, the fate of Nigeria Air remains contingent on the Nigerian government’s decision, pending resolution of legal matters.