Africa News Illustration of Nigeria Air Airbus A330-900N © Nigeria Air

Illustration of Nigeria Air Airbus A330-900N © Nigeria Air

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Nigeria’s Federal Government has earmarked NGN47.43 billion naira (USD132 million) in the 2019 budget for the proposed national airline Nigeria Air (Lagos), the country’s aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, has announced.

The government approved the funding for the project over the course of this year as part of the 2019 Appropriation Bill, which President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law on May 28 before starting a second five-year term in office on May 30.

“President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the viability gap funding for the project be provided for in the 2019 Appropriation, which the National Assembly had graciously done,” Sirika said, according to Nigeria’s Punch newspaper.

The funding will enable the start-up to launch operations before the introduction of private equity funds, the minister explained.

Sirika added that alleged disagreements over the project in the cabinet of ministers, the Federal Executive Council, as reported on May 23 by the transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, had been misrepresented in the media.

Amaechi had said, according to ThisDay, that “on the national carrier, the cabinet is divided on the issue of modality. There are those who believe that the federal government should invest and then we can sell the equity later.”

Plans to float a new national carrier by the name of Nigeria Air were first revealed at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2018, where Sirika unveiled a logo and ambitions to fly to 80 destinations with a fleet of 30 aircraft.

However, two months later the government shelved the plans due to objections by the Economic Management Team (EMT) chaired by the country’s vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, on the grounds that public funds could not be used to set up a carrier unless a budget had been approved by both the cabinet and the National Assembly.

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