The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, has described the unveiling of Nigeria Air by the previous administration as a fraud, stating that the project remains suspended. Speaking during the Ministerial Sectorial update in Abuja on Monday, May 27, Keyamo criticized the national carrier initiative, highlighting secrecy and fraudulent activities.

Keyamo emphasized that the purportedly indigenous project was, in reality, an Ethiopian airline operating under the guise of a Nigerian national carrier. “It was never Air Nigeria, it was Ethiopian trying to flag our flag,” Keyamo said. He questioned the logic behind allowing a foreign airline to operate as Nigeria’s national carrier, asserting that the project should benefit Nigerians.

“It only printed Air Nigeria. It was an Ethiopian airline trying to fly our flag. Why not allow our local people to fly our flag? How does giving 60 percent of the profit to another country benefit us?” he added. Keyamo confirmed that Nigeria Air remains suspended and will continue to be so under his administration.

On boosting economic development in the aviation sector, Keyamo announced the resumption of cargo flights between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. He highlighted the potential benefits of tapping into the $6 trillion global cargo market, emphasizing that Nigeria had missed significant opportunities.

“We have agreed that we’re going to resume cargo flights between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Air cargo trade accounts for 35 percent of the world trade deficit and attracts about $6 trillion annually,” he said.

Keyamo also addressed the longstanding issue of the second runway at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, noting that it was resolved within two weeks of his appointment. He promised that the new runway would enhance airport capacity and operational efficiency.

Furthermore, Keyamo confirmed that the issue of trapped funds of foreign airlines had been resolved. “We had to work closely with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Minister of Finance. By our persistence, we are happy to announce that we have cleared all the trapped funds,” he said.

The Minister also outlined efforts to prioritize and assist local airlines, ensuring Nigeria takes full advantage of its reciprocal rights under the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with various countries. He announced the commencement of the open sky operation with the United States, allowing Nigeria unrestricted flights to the US, deployment of any aircraft on those routes, and multiple entry points.