The chief executive officer at West Link Airlines, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia has said it is a farce that Nigeria Air which exists in embryo would create 70, 000 jobs when it comes on stream.
He was reacting to last Wednesday’s statement credited to the minister of aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika that the national carrier which begins operations in April 2022 with three leased aircraft, would generate 70, 000 jobs.
Mshelia said even mega carriers do not create such jobs.
“Even before the COVID-19 hit, British Airways had 42, 000 staff all over the world; KLM with 100/102 years of existence, they have just about 100,000 employees. And then if you come down to our level of Kenyan Airways which has just less than 5, 000, Etihad, state airline for the middle east has less than 13, 000-14,000. These are large airlines I am talking about. How on earth would an airline that is a dream away or a mirage, I would say, come and employ 70,000 people,” Mshelia queried.
He also picked holes in the minister’s claim of building a maintenance facility without getting the approval of the federal executive council first.
“I heard…that he has acquired 12,000 hectares; 12,000 hectares is about 20 per cent of Abuja. He has acquired that to build a second runway, MRO and the MRO is coming before the airline and the MRO he said…has not gone to FEC for approval. Yet and it is coming before the airline and it is supposed to service the airline,” Mshelia stated.
The airline chief further said the whole concept of the proposed Nigeria Air was kept under wraps.
“How do you want to start an airline that has not been registered? I stand to be corrected if that airline is registered at all. If it is not registered, first and foremost, we don’t even know who the shareholders will be; we only know that Nigeria will have no more than 5 per cent. He has not told Nigerians or sector operators who these shareholders will be; which means he is doing it in absolute secrecy; which means he is not setting up an airline for Nigeria, he is setting up an airline for himself and he has no right to do that using Nigeria’s money or leveraging on Nigerian government,” he added.
Mshelia maintained that the minister was yet to come clean about the structure and registration of the proposed national airline.
“There has to be transparency in the whole exercise. He must be called to order. It would take you a minimum of 12 months to register an airline when you know the name even with government leverage because there are incubation periods for some of these certification processes.
“You need to register and when the CAC gives you registration certificate, you need to apply for Air Transport License (ATL) if they will be doing scheduled operations.
“We all know that every director has to fill a form because the ICAO recommended practice is all those who operate an airline must have reputable track records so that we don’t have criminals, doing gun running, laundering and what have you. Every director on paper must be vetted by the SSS and security agencies. You fill a personal history statement (PHS) form and submit it and it would be sent to SSS who will go to everywhere you put on that CV to verify.
“After the vetting you will make an advert for 28 days…so anyone who has an issue with the licensing of the ATL to that applicant should come up with reasons. There could be court cases going on for months or years, that should further tell you something
“That has not been done…They are not going to jump the process because it is a Nigerian project; we will not allow that plus we are a category one CAA. They should not dare do that otherwise they will lose that status,” he said.
Mshelia who also accused the minister of embarking on meaningless jamborees added: “He unveiled a name in Farnborough. You are setting up an airline for Nigerians; you hid the name from them and went to Farnborough with those you selected to go there to unveil a name. People go to air shows to showcase their products. You saw how Overland, Ibom Air were at Dubai Air show and made orders.
“There you will meet financiers who will finance aircraft for you and go with the manufacturers… Our airlines have been lucky to get financing and signed up to get new aircraft. That’s what happens at Farnborough; nobody goes there to unveil the name of an airline.”