The Interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Capt Dapo Olumide, on Tuesday, said the aircraft used to unveil the country’s national career was a legitimate chartered flight from Ethiopian Airlines.
He said the aircraft returned to Ethiopian Airlines after the unveiling.
Olumide stated this before the Senate Committee on Aviation.
The Committee members expressed its misgivings towards the unveiling of the national carrier during a meeting with Olumide; the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, Emmanuel Meribole; as well as heads of aviation agencies.
At the meeting, the Chairman of the Senate Aviation Committee, Senator Biodun Olujimi wondered why the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika hurriedly unveiled a national carrier on the last day of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Also, the Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, said the launch of Nigeria Air is a fraud.
He stated this after meeting stakeholders in the aviation sector who largely denied knowledge of the launch.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Aviation said Nigeria Air was only unveiled and not launched.
Responding to the Committee, Capt Dapo Olumide said Nigeria Air was unveiled at the time it was to prove to Nigerians that the project is not a fluke.
Revealed! Nigeria Air MD Confesses, Says We Chartered Ethiopian Airlines Aircraft To Unveil Nigeria Air
Recall that Ethiopian Airlines ownership of the Boeing 737-800 series aircraft flown into Abuja from Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, on May 26.
The aircraft took off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at 9:55 am on May 26 and landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at 12:43 p.m.
Shortly after the aircraft landed, Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, expressed delight that after “a very long, tedious, daunting and difficult path”, the project had taken off
He later unveiled the aircraft with registration ET-APL at the General Aviation Terminal of the Abuja airport.
Investigations showed that the aircraft flew for its original airline up till four days before it was brought to Nigeria.
It embarked on a trip from Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv in Israel, according to the flight history.
Flightradar, the popular flight tracking website, said the aircraft operated between Tel Aviv and Mogadishu, Somalia, still on May 21, 2023.
On 20th May, it operated both Mogadishu in Somalia and Beirut on 20th May while the previous day it also serviced Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.
But when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation on Tuesday, Olumide said Nigeria Air had yet to secure an operating licence for full flight operations, saying that the processes were still at the early stages.
Olumide said the aircraft was used pending the completion of the processes required for the operation of the airline.
He said his mandate was to secure an air operating certificate for the airline not necessarily to operate it but to secure a licence to fly.
“The aircraft that came in and left was a legitimate charter flight. Anyone of us here if we have a destination wedding in Senegal, we can charter an aircraft.”
“You don’t need to have a licence to do that, you just charter an aircraft, an aircraft you paid for it, it will be brought here, take your passengers and off you go.
“And that is what we did. But in this case, it was to unveil the logo of Nigeria Air. Ever since 2018, all you have ever seen about Nigeria Air were pictures, drawings not the real aircraft, and we thought it was time to show what the real aircraft will look like also to let shareholders see.
We have institutional investors, they are not in aviation but they are putting their money for 10 to 15 years, so they need to see what the actual aircraft will look like.
“So we brought it in here to show them what the aircraft will look like, then the social media dimension came into it.
“For us to get that licence which is my mandate, we must among other things have three aircraft before the NCAA will give us a licence and those three aircraft must be Nigerian registered aircraft.
“So when this aircraft came on a chartered flight, everybody said we have launched Nigeria Air, there are learned people in the aviation industry who could have countered that when social media came out, but they chose not to.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Biodun Olujimi said it was unfortunate that the former Minister of Aviation failed to involve the committee and other stakeholders in the Air Nigeria project.
“To state the obvious, he failed to carry members of the Committee along in virtually all ramifications despite the degree of respect members accorded him any time he was invited for meetings.”
BY IYABO AINA
Publisher Of News Rain Nigeria