Ethiopian Airlines has absolved itself from any wrongdoing in the establishment of Nigerian Air and the processes that led to its launch by the former Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirka.
Ethiopian Airlines made the denial through its Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Mesfin Tasew during an interview with journalist in Addis Ababa.
Tasew revealed that Ethiopian Air almost pulled out of the deal but the former administration insisted that its expertise was needed for the success of the Nigerian Air.
The Nigerian Air was floated on May 27 after which it was discovered that the aircraft used for the exercise was a Boeing 737-800 which has registration Number ET-APL, Mode S Q4005C, and serial number: 40965/4075.
The project has been suspended by the new Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo.
Tasew said, “At one point, the leadership of Nigeria Air, which doesn’t include Ethiopian Airlines, asked us to bring aircraft painted with the Nigerian logo to facilitate the progress of the Air Operators’ Certificate. So, we agreed with that, we took out one of our aircraft, we painted it with the Nigerian logo, we flew it, it was for demonstration by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for their inspection.
“So, after two days, we brought back the aircraft, repainted it with the Ethiopian logo and it is flying. So, while we were here, waiting for the decision of the court, now there was a change of government that took place.”
He said Ethiopian Airlines didn’t have any intention or plan to set up an airline in Nigeria.
Tasewa explained that in May of 2022, when he took his current responsibility (as Group CEO), a request came from the Nigerian government asking Ethiopian Airlines to participate in a bid and help the Nigerian government to set up a Nigerian flag carrier.
He said, “It came in writing. Initially, we didn’t want to go into that. We said we have other initiatives in other countries and we were busy. But the Nigerian government insisted that Ethiopian Airlines is an African airline, it has to help the Nigerian government in setting up the national carrier. So, we had to respect them.
“We serve the Nigerian public and government by flying to four cities in Nigeria; we couldn’t say no, we cannot come and help you. So, we had to submit a proposal, we had to respect the Nigerian government.
“We thought that the Nigerian government had choices, ET being one; because they had also requested other airlines in the Middle East, Europe to participate in the bid. I don’t know whether they participated or not. We submitted our proposal and we received a letter from the Ministry of Aviation, saying that Ethiopian Airlines has been selected to be a partner to set up the airline.”
He said that the Nigerian government told Ethiopian Air that domestic airlines where not dependable and do not have the capacity to run the national carrier.