Captain Mshelia spoke to Nigerianflightdeck said it is against this backdrop and many more that he feels the need for a national carrier by government stating however that the government airline should be set up to serve international routes alone and partner indigenous airlines for domestic and regional operations.
Mshelia, who ran for governorship under the Zenith Labour Party in Borno State also decried that the country has been ceding its best and brightest pilots, engineers to foreign countries also part of what has stunted the industry’s growth.
He said,” This COVID- 19 pandemic has shown that we acted inappropriately as a nation, in my opinion. No nation can survive local currency slide against foreign currency when the country depends on import.
“Foreign airlines playing major role in providing our international travel connections solely is not only counterproductive but disastrous. The foreign airlines have to take their money out and these people don’t spend or accept naira in their countries, they have to process our naira and take out more acceptable and stronger foreign exchanged currencies out of our economy (USD, EURO or Pounds etc).
“I, however, caution that the airline government wants to set up should strictly not involve itself with domestic and regional, but partner the domestic private sector operators of its choice to feed it.
“Those in the aviation private sector have failed to deliver on the international/intercontinental routes as evidenced by every day, seeing major foreign world carriers flying daily flights to various destinations in Nigeria. If we had strong private sector operators, less of the major carriers’ direct presence will be seen, as they would have interlined with our carriers; which is the easiest and modern ways of doing aviation business today.
“There are now Oneworld, Star Alliances etc. What Nigeria Airways was able to achieve then and remained in IATA clearing house till things became sour after government’s withdrawal of subventions funds.
He called on the National Assembly to support a well-thought out and established National Carrier explaining its functions thus:
“My take therefore is that by all means government should seek support of National Assembly and I appeal to the representatives of the people to appropriate the money needed to setup a befitting National carrier that will do only the Intercontinental routes like of London, Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Etc., while the airline gets fed by the domestic and regional private sector carriers they choose to interline with.
He further reasoned that government took a decision to liquidate Nigeria Airways Limited and has taken another to try and reestablish a national carrier in its stead, a decision he sees nothing wrong with.
He said,” My reasons therefore for supporting government now are many but the basics are simple: if government can evaluate itself and drastically take actions such as liquidate an entity like NAL, the same government with the same sense of responsibility to citizenry and those who live and do business in our country, similarly bailed out airlines recently to sustain the sector, then now decides to take further actions to remedy this over 30 years of abysmal performance by the private sector on the international routes, then why the brouhaha?
“If the deregulation ( that gave birth to private airlines) was done as should have been then, the way Virgin Atlantic, Ryan Air Etc became great in Europe, ours would have been similar if not larger but we did not do it right.
“There are always room for amendments and changes. Successive governments just talked about it and did nothing. The shock to some is because this government said it and they are going ahead. This fear, I believe, will fizzle away when the private sector sees that the aim of government is not to exterminate them, but fill a vacuum,’ he concluded.
Full Point of View opinion will be published on Wednesday