Nigeria has appointed advisers to help it set up a national airline and develop its aviation infrastructure — currently seen as a barrier to economic growth — to create a hub for West Africa, junior aviation minister Hadi Sirika said.
He said a group of six firms including German carrier Lufthansa would advise government on setting up an airline, an aviation leasing company and a maintenance hangar and on creating concessions to run the country’s airports.
A cabinet meeting on Wednesday chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo approved 1.52 billion naira of funding for the project, he added.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who promised a national airline when campaigning for election, did not attend the weekly meeting, fuelling concerns about the state of his health.
Decades of neglect and lack of investment have left Nigeria with low-quality infrastructure seen as a hurdle to prosperity and government has already said upgrading will require private investment.
Government set up a committee on establishing a national airline in 2015, in fulfilment of campaign promises which brought Buhari’s All Progressive Congress (APC) to power.
An APC transition paper seen by Reuters in 2015 proposed merging a dozen debt-laden airlines on the books of state-owned “bad bank” AMCON into a single carrier that would partner with a global airline to serve the West and Central African region.
The proposed carrier would include Nigeria’s biggest airline, Arik Air, which AMCON took over in February.
AMCON said it has no plans to convert Arik into a national carrier and government has no interest in doing so other than to ensure the airline continues to fly.