In the wake of the unfolding complexities surrounding the Nigeria Air project and Ethiopian Airlines’ involvement, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) has fervently refuted any allegations of impropriety or wrongdoing.
The Nigeria Air Project announced in 2018, intended as a beacon of hope for the country’s aviation sector, has sparked considerable debate and speculation, and ET has sought to address these concerns directly.
In July 2022, Ethiopian Airlines, leading a consortium, secured a 51/49 public-private partnership with the Nigerian government for Nigeria Air. Despite earlier plans for a debut in October 2023, the project’s certification process remains halted due to legal challenges from the Air Operators of Nigeria (AON), concerned about unfair competition in the aviation landscape.
CEO Mesfin Tasew detailed Ethiopian Airlines’ initial reluctance to venture into Nigeria Air, citing the government’s insistence in May 2022 to participate in the bid. The airline initially hesitated but acceded upon the Nigerian government’s persistent request. “We submitted our proposal, respecting the Nigerian government’s request. We received a letter from the Ministry of Aviation, confirming Ethiopian Airlines’ selection,” Tasew explained.
Amid negotiations, Ethiopian Airlines was chosen to partner in the establishment of the national carrier. However, differences persisted in certain aspects of the partnership despite discussions and agreements on several points.
Tasew reiterated Ethiopian Airlines’ stance, affirming the airline’s compliance with the government’s directives. He stressed the airline’s willingness to support the Nigerian government in the project, while leaving the ultimate decision-making to the government.
Furthermore, Tasew clarified that the federal government initiated the request for Nigeria Air’s livery on Ethiopian Airlines’ aircraft. He recounted, “The leadership of Nigeria Air requested aircraft painted with the Nigerian logo to expedite the Air Operators’ Certificate. We complied, flying a painted aircraft for NCAA inspection.”
The CEO highlighted that the decision to cancel or continue the project lies with the government. He stated, “In the first place, it was not our initiative; it was the initiative of the government. Now, if the government wants us to cancel the project, it is fine with us. We have no problem. If the government want us to continue with the project, the government has to solve the legal case in court. Otherwise, we are willing to support the Nigerian government in the establishment of the national carrier. So, we leave the decision to the Nigerian government,” Tasew continued.