When word seeped through the media early this year that a number of airlines were coming up to populate the Nigerian airspace, veteran journalist and former editor of BusinessDay, Okwudili Ojukwu-Enendu, sneered.
Half a dozen of them had been mooted to have secured or were on the verge of securing the Air Operator’s License (AOL). These included United Nigeria Airlines, which launched operations in March, Green Africa Airlines, which has announced its imminent takeoff, NG Eagle, Binani Air, Rano Air and Northeast Shuttle, among others.
Take this from Ojukwu-Enendu: “If Nigerian Airways, with an endless flow of government cash, couldn’t be sustained; if Captains Augustine Okon and Alakija of ADC, and their entire generation couldn’t keep their aviation companies flying, who are these clones of Isaac Newton that have come up with some discovery of aviation gravity?”
According to him, “A count of airlines that have been issued the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to fly in the Nigerian airspace lists about 66. Of that, only about 13 are operational and of these only about half maintain scheduled flights, with the rest more dead than alive. Of about 53 airlines that have categorically died, about 43 of them went under between 2000 and now – a space of 20 years.”
From the historical perspective, therefore, he saw aviation in Nigeria, as one of the sectors with the highest attrition rates. But he has since seen the industry from another perspective.
Ojukwu-Enendu, confessed that he shelved his sarcasm when the first of them to roll out, United Nigeria Airlines, turned out having Dr. Obiora Okonkwo as the promoter. Ojukwu had known Okonkwo for decades and his reputation as a hard-nosed serial business success stands him out. There must be something there for Okonkwo to get involved.
“I first made acquaintance with Okonkwo in the 1980s before he travelled to the then Soviet Union for higher education. He returned…