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Nigerians' hope about national carrier crushed as FG suspends Nigeria Air indefinitely

Keyamo says the project was designed to impersonate a foreign airline operating in Nigeria.

Nigeria-Air [TheNation]

Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace announced this on Monday, May 27, 2024, at the ministerial briefing organised to mark President Bola Tinubu’s administration’s first year.

According to TheNation, Keyamo said the Nigeria Air project launched during the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari was never a Nigerian airline project.

He said the project was designed to impersonate a foreign airline operating in Nigeria.

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“It remains suspended. It was never Air Nigeria. It was not Air Nigeria. That’s the truth. It was only painted Nigeria Air. It was Ethiopian Airlines trying to flag our flag.

“If it is so, why not allow our local plane to fly our flag? So nobody should dispute that it was Nigeria Air," Keyamo said.

Recall that three days before the end of Buhari’s administration, Hadi Sirika, the then Minister of Aviation launched Nigeria Air with the arrival of an aircraft amid a faceoff with local airline operators.

The local airline operators including Azman Air, Air Peace, Max Air, Topbrass Aviation, and United Nigeria Airlines had sued the Federal Government over its national carrier deal with Ethiopian Airlines.

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The airline operators claimed that the licence issued to Nigerian Air did not pass through the normal security clearance, adding that the firm which served as Transaction Adviser for the deal was linked to Sirika.

However, as speculations swell about the whereabouts of the aircraft Sirika sold to Nigerians as a national carrier, the minister on Friday, May 26, 2023, announced the arrival of a plane on Twitter.

Sirika accompanied his tweet with a video showing the plane adorned in Nigeria Air colours landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

He wrote, “We are here. To Almighty God be all the glory. It has been a very long, tedious, daunting and difficult path. We thank everyone for the support. This, by the will of God, will be for us and generations to come. Ya Allah make it beneficial for our country and humanity.”

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However, barely a week after the launch, the management of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) disclosed that the aircraft Sirika presented as Nigeria’s national career was a chartered plane.

The House of Reps subsequently described the purported launch of Nigeria Air as a fraud.

Months after leaving office, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) interrogated Sirika over an alleged ₦8.06 billion contract fraud in the Federal Ministry of Aviation.

The immediate-past Minister of Aviation reportedly awarded some contracts to his brother, who was arrested on Sunday, February 4, 2024, as part of the investigation into the alleged fraudulent practices perpetuated during his leadership of the ministry.

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In April, the anti-graft agency arrested the ex-minister over alleged embezzlement of ₦8 billion linked to the Nigerian Air scandal.

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