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Ethiopian Airlines CEO declares respect for Nigerian government’s decision on national carrier project

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The Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Mesfin Tasew, has declared the airline’s willingness to abide by any decision taken by the Nigerian government regarding the national carrier project. Tasew, speaking to journalists in Addis Ababa, emphasized that Ethiopian Airlines did not initially express interest in the Nigeria Air project but responded after an official request from the Nigerian government seeking partnership.

Tasew clarified that Ethiopian Airlines would respect Nigeria’s choice, whether to suspend the project indefinitely or resume it. He acknowledged the recent meeting between Nigerian authorities and Ethiopian Airlines management in Abuja to discuss the matter.

“In the first place, the national carrier project was not our initiative; it was the initiative of the Nigerian government. Now, if the government wants us to cancel the project, it is fine with us. We have no problem,” stated Tasew, addressing allegations and controversies surrounding the project.

Highlighting the airline’s role in the venture, Tasew outlined the sequence of events. The Nigerian government formally requested Ethiopian Airlines to participate in a bid and assist in establishing a national carrier in May 2022. Despite initial reluctance due to other ongoing initiatives, the airline submitted a proposal in response to Nigeria’s insistence.

Tasew recounted, “We had to respect that request because we also serve the Nigerian public and government by flying to four cities in Nigeria. We couldn’t say no. So we had to submit a proposal. We had to respect Nigeria.”

The CEO addressed concerns raised during the process, including legal challenges. He noted the collaboration with the Nigerian government in defending the project in court against entities opposing the establishment of the airline.

“At that time, we thought that if the Nigerian government and the public didn’t want it, we could as well withdraw. But the Nigerian government insisted this was a strategic issue for Nigeria and that we should continue,” Tasew explained.

Responding to the suspension of the national carrier project by the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, Tasew emphasized Ethiopian Airlines’ commitment to supporting a fellow African nation in building a robust national airline. He refuted claims that the airline intended to dominate the domestic market, emphasizing its goal to assist Nigeria.

Tasew also clarified the role of Ethiopian Airlines in the process, stating, “Nigeria Air was established by the Nigerian government before we were invited. It has its own leadership; it was doing a lot of things; it had started requesting the Air Operators’ Certificate.”

He addressed the use of an aircraft painted in Nigerian Air colors, highlighting its temporary role in expediting the certification process.

While respecting the decision of the Nigerian government, Tasew reiterated the airline’s readiness to either support the establishment of the national carrier or withdraw based on Nigeria’s final determination. The CEO underscored the collaborative and supportive intentions of Ethiopian Airlines in contributing to the development of African aviation.

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