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FG not Paying $300m for 5% Stake in Nigeria Air, Says Sirika


By Kasim Sumaina in Abuja

The federal government Tuesday debunked what it termed malicious falsehood of it paying the sum of $300 million for a five per cent stake in Nigeria Air.

The Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika in his responses to questions raised about the national carrier, which was launched on Wednesday, July 18, said the government is providing startup capital for the airline.

Sirika, in a statement by the Ministry’s Deputy Director of Press, Mr. James Odaudu, in Abuja hinted that government is not funding the entire project.

The minister, in his compilations from a post on social media in response to criticisms, said: “Dear Nigerians, since the very successful unveiling of the national carrier’s name and logo at the Farnborough Airshow and the wide acclaim of Nigerians and investors, a few nameless and named Nigerians have unfortunately gone to social media to spread falsehood about the national carrier project.

“Constructive criticism is the hallmark of democracy but spreading falsehood does our nation and people no good service.

“The current campaign of falsehood, unfortunately reminds me of what happened when we decided for safety reasons to close Abuja Airport and make repairs that had been abandoned for years.

“The same group of Nigerians went to social media again spreading falsehood. We stayed on course and delivered the runway which has served now faultlessly. As we delivered on the Abuja runway repairs so shall we on the national carrier and we will not bow to falsehood.”

According to him, “While we provide the clarifications below for record purposes, only delivering a world class national carrier is good enough for Nigerians, this will stop the export of jobs and exploitation of Nigerian air travellers. We are not deterred but we are focused on our target and mission.

“Government is just providing startup capital in the form of an upfront grant/viability gap funding. Once the strategic equity investor is in place, they will be expected to build on the initial investment made.

“$8 million represents startup capital for offices etc required for takeoff. But $300 million is the entire airline cash flow funding requirements (aircraft, operations and working capital) for three years (2018, 2019 and 2020).

“This funding can be in the form of equity or debt. The financial model estimates cash flow requirements as follows 2018 ($55 million – $8 million is included here), 2019 ($100 million) and 2020 ($145 million).”

He explained that: “In order to ensure take-off of the airline in 2018, the government will provide $55 million upfront grant/viability gap funding to finance startup capital and pay commitment fees for aircraft to be leased for initial operations and deposit for new aircraft whose delivery will begin in 2021.”

The minister said the strategic investor will only become known after the public-private partnership procurement process is completed.

On the shares to be sold after one year of operations, Sirika stressed that the company’s shares will be sold through an initial public offering after which the government will own five per cent equity.

“Government’s equity share held in trust for Nigerians will be devolved to Nigerians via an IPO. The government will retain only 5% equity, the list of shareholders then will be available to SEC and the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

“The rest of the 95% equity of Nigeria Air Limited will then be owned by the strategic equity investor and the general public.

“At that point, Nigeria Air Ltd becomes a public company subject to SEC, NSE and relevant CAMA rules for public companies,” he said.

He further said that the airline will begin operations with dry leases and the domain,

Someone has already registered apparently in anticipation of a buy-out by the proposed airline.

“Other information in the social media claiming ownership or others post PPP procurement decisions are false and unfortunate.

“Once the Request for Qualification and Information Memorandum document is completed for the procurement phase, these documents will be released to the public for an open competitive international bidding process to select a minority strategic equity partner who will invest and operate the national carrier. The public will know more,” he said.

He observed that: “For the national carrier only the development phase has been completed and all the information about this phase has been transparently disclosed on the PPP Disclosure Portal of the regulator the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (no private party has been selected, final financial requirement not completed only business case funding estimate is available, final equity structure not in place yet).

“As part of efforts to make airlines viable in Nigeria, the ministry is making moves to have the National Assembly pass a fly Nigeria act. This act will require that anybody travelling on a ticket bought with public funds must travel on a Nigerian carrier unless the route is not served by a Nigerian carrier.

“However, as part of discussions with major aircraft manufacturers, the government will pay deposits for brand new aircraft and the manufacturers will support Nigeria Air in getting very good dry lease aircraft coming directly from C checks and certified by the original manufacturers.

“These aircraft lease period will be for an initial period of 5 years with an early termination option after 4 years. By the time the new aircrafts are ready, they will be replacing the leased aircrafts.

“Till all the aircraft are owned by the airline. This is how Emirates Airlines started with two leased aircraft from Pakistan Airlines until it was able to buy her own aircraft. According to the manufacturers, the new aircraft will start coming through from 2021.

“However, with your private funds you can do as you like. Many countries including America has such as Act. This National carrier is for us as a nation, and it should be our pride and joy. Let’s try and contribute positively to the success of Nigeria Air.”

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