The Generation Next Collective (GNC), a coalition of pragmatic youth and women groups, with core interest in development strategies and democratic accountability, has described the controversy over the inauguration of Nigeria’s flag carrier, the Nigeria Air and the current opposition to the establishment of the national airline, by private operators, as unhealthy, selfish and unpatriotic.
The national airline has faced fierce criticism and opposition, from the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), spearheaded by Dr Obiora Okonkwo, who incidentally is the founder of United Nigeria Airline, one of the privately owned airlines operating in Nigeria.
Okonkwo and other indigenous operators have accused the former Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, who initiated the establishment of Nigeria Air, of a dangerous plot to kill the entire indigenous operators and hand over monopoly to Ethiopian Airlines, the major partner of the national airline.
But the GNC in a joint statement by its co-conveners, Barrister Ruth Edehemon and Malam Rufai Abdulahi, in Abuja, on Thursday, said that it rather saw hope and a realistic step towards positive change in the aviation industry in Nigeria with the arrival of the Boeing 737 aircraft, branded in Nigeria’s green-white-green colours on Friday, May 26, 2023, adding that it’s bewildering to see aviation operators kick over a development that would potentially add value to the people and the economy of the nation.
According to GNC, “It is selfish and unpatriotic for private operators to turn themselves into an army of opposition and harbingers if negative narratives against the floating, success and sustainability of our common heritage, Nigeria Air.
“In fact, we have observed with dismay that Dr Obiora Okonkwo, who has been so vociferous in spreading the negative and misleading narratives about the national airline, in the guise of representing the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), is not motivated by objectivity or patriotism, but only doing so for his selfish aim of being in the driving seat of monopoly and mindless manipulation of cost of air fare in the industry.
“We object to such profiteering tendencies and dark conspiracies that do not put to account, the interest of the people or the collective prosperity of the nation.
“We call on Dr Obiora and those other operators in bed with him in the campaign of calumny and gang up against Nigeria Air, to channel the energy to the provision of quality service delivery in the aviation industry, rather than fret over a potential healthy competition from the national airline and its partners.
The statement said further: “We don’t have any reason to doubt that the national airline would in line with the aviation industry master plan, make Nigeria a vibrant aviation hub, as the former minister has said.
“We also agree with him, especially with the new government in place, that
Nigeria Air is set up towards getting Nigeria to take advantage of its various Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and open skies agreements and also create jobs for the teeming youths of Nigeria.
“Nigeria Air should be given the chance to either prove us wrong or right, rather than the inexplicable attempt to kill it with misleading narratives. Competition is the tonic for good service delivery. And we should encourage that for the good of the people.”