In spite of the criticism trailing Federal Government's decision to assist Nigerian airlines acquire modern aircraft, the government has gone ahead to open negotiations with an aircraft manufacturer, Embraer on the purchase of aircraft for the domestic airlines.
Based on this, the Federal Government and Embraer of Brazil have agreed in principle to collaborate in assisting domestic airlines acquire new aircraft.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, who said steps had been taken to avail the airlines the opportunity to acquire new planes.
Oduah, who spoke through her Special Adviser (Media), Joe Obi, said the deal was the outcome of preliminary talks opened last weekend, in Brazil by the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Aviation led by the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. George Uriesi, and Embraer led by the Senior Vice-President Operations/Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Luis Carlos Affonso.
Ureisi told the Embraer executives that the Federal Government had altered its strategy for the development of the aviation sector with respect to domestic airlines by its intention to assist them increase their fleet with new aircraft from reputable manufacturers around the world.
He emphasised the need for the use of proper equipment (aircraft) by domestic operators, hence the need for government to intervene directly in the acquisition of aircraft that are effective, efficient and appropriate for the regions and routes.
"Domestic carriers use wrong equipment for most of their operations. There is no established record of sustainability for these airlines mainly because of the use of wrong equipment. Intervention fund by the Federal Government in the past to assist them re-fleet has failed because there was no evidence of the money being ploughed back into the airlines leading to them failing in the long run.
"Government wants to change this model entirely by floating a fund for the acquisition of new aircraft for the domestic carriers. In this regard, government is seeking a partnership with Embraer that will lead to a discussion on how these new aircraft will be procured at very competitive, fair, and concessionary rates," Ureisi said.
Speaking on behalf of Embraer, Affonso said the company welcomed the opportunity to partner the Federal Government in its desire to assist domestic carriers acquire new and more efficient fleet.
Affonso said Embraer considered the African market as a very important one, adding that market indicators showed that the number of aircraft in the continent would double in the next few years.
"Nigeria will certainly be leading this expansion in Africa and we will be very delighted to be part of that growth and expansion," he added.
He said Embraer manufactures have robust, effective and low operating cost aircraft that would suit the Nigerian market, adding that once the needs of the domestic carriers were determined, the company would be able to manufacture equipment that would be custom-made for the region and routes.
He said Embraer was willing to open production lines to meet the requirements of Nigeria's domestic carriers and expressed optimism that a partnership could be worked out by both parties to advance the cause.
The Federal Government and Embraer agreed to continue on more specific and detailed discussions on the subject matter in the days and weeks to come.
Although many in the industry see government's plan to re-fleet domestic airlines as laudable and the only way many Nigerian airlines could operate new aircraft, others see it as wastage of public resources because of the doubt that the airlines would not meet the loan repayment conditions, if they would pay back at all.
Oduah had recently told THISDAY that the condition put in place for the airlines to obtain the loan was very stringent that they cannot renege on the agreement and some of the airlines may not even meet the conditions to qualify them to benefit from the loan.