Even though it was indefinitely suspended two years ago, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is still intent on launching a national carrier.

15 years after it was shut down, the government in July 2018 launched "Nigeria Air" with a new logo at the Farnborough International Public Airshow in London.

The project divided public opinion with many not convinced about its economic benefits especially in the highly capital intensive airline business.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) then decided to suspend the project in September 2018, three months before it had been scheduled to start operations.

Many critics of the project could have been lulled into thinking it was dead and buried, especially with the time that has passed, but the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has hinted that it's still alive and well.

The minister dropped the hint while he was talking about the decision of the FEC to ratify an air transport agreement between Nigeria and the United States on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

Mohammed said the agreement, which will improve social, political, and economic ties, will help with the Nigeria Air project.

"Mr President signed a valid agreement of air transport service between Nigeria and the US with the attendant benefits for both countries, especially as Nigeria is working towards having its own full national airline," he told State House correspondents.

Mohammed suggested two years ago the project was not attracting enough investors [BusinessDay]
Mohammed suggested two years ago the project was not attracting enough investors [BusinessDay]

When the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, launched the project in London two years ago, he said it would be private sector-led and driven, noting that the government would not own more than 5%, and would not be involved in running it.

The government never fully addressed why the project was suspended, but Mohammed had suggested in 2018 that it was due to a lack of investors.

"The position of government in business is to provide the enabling environment and it is not to become the sole source of finance or funding and in addition, there is much more than funding in trying to get our national carrier.

"So, the Federal Government thinks this thing should be stepped down now until we get a better funding structure," he had said.

Sirika countered this by saying the decision was a strategic one, and that the project actually has 'an avalanche of well-grounded and ready investors'.

Nigeria's previous national carrier, Nigeria Airways, originally commenced operations in August 1958 but was liquidated by former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, in May 2003.