Nigeria: Ethiopian Airlines 'Not a Frontrunner' in Bid for New Nigeria Air

Ethiopian Airlines(file photo).

Nigeria has denied claims that Ethiopian Airlines is among the frontrunners to set up and manage its new national carrier.

The Minister of State for Aviation Mr Hadi Sirika said it was "preposterous and misleading" for the Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Mr Tewolde Gebremariam to make such a claim.

Mr Sirika said negotiations are still ongoing with potential partners and investors who include financial institutions, airlines and original equipment manufacturers.

"I don't know about Ethiopian Airlines or any other prospective investors being favourites or frontrunners to establish and manage Nigeria Air," he said on Tuesday.

"These discussions are not limited to the establishment of a national carrier.

"There are other components of the Aviation Roadmap for which investors are being sought. These include the establishment of a maintenance centre, cargo terminals, concession of airports and the establishment of an aviation leasing company," he added.

He said the process to set up a national carrier would be guided by the national policy on public-private partnership.

Mr Sirika, assuring investors, added that the government would ensure transparency, accountability and public interest.

On Friday, when releasing the company's financial results in Addis Ababa, Mr Tewolde said that the Ethiopian flag carrier was "among a small group" with an interest in setting up the Nigerian national carrier. He added that while "we do not know the results" of the tender, "we are frontrunners."

Ethiopian Airlines already has contracts for maintenance work with Nigeria's Arik Air - the largest private airline, and Medview Airline, he said.

The carrier, ranked as Africa's largest airline by revenue and profit by International Air Transport Association (IATA), has been buying shares from other African airlines and setting up hubs across the continent as it steps up its expansion plan.

Mr Tewolde said the airline made $233 million in net profit for the 2017/18 financial year from $299 million the previous year.

The operating revenue grew 43 per cent to $3.7 billion.

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