Air Nigeria concludes turnaround, begins international flights

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Air Nigeria Development Company Limited has concluded its two-year turnaround programme, based mainly on financial engineering.

It now plans to consolidate on flights to its regional routes commencing with the London route on May 16 and the Johannesburg route on May 17.

The Paris route is to follow in June.

The chairman of the airline and Group Managing Director, the Global Fleet conglomerate, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim told senior journalist in Lagos at the weekend that the airline would start with seven flights from Lagos to Gatwick in London each week right from the beginning.

He added that, as new core investors in the airline, he inherited a debt of about $373 million from the Richard Branson-led management of the defunct Virgin Nigeria, which metamorphosed into Air Nigeria, stressing that he was not propelled by a profit motive but rather by the national question.

“First, we had to sort out the identity/name crisis; a period of 60 days was given us by Richard Branson to change the name. The company was financially distressed and had unavoidable flight delays. We then hired about 30 graduates trained directly by myself to do a fact-finding, diagnostic review and we found a lot of irregularities,” he said.

“United Bank for Africa, for instance, had a loan exposure to Air Nigeria alone to the tune of $275 million (about N36 billion), which threatened to pull down both the airline and the bank. We thus took an AFREXIM long-term loan of $250 million and cleaned up the renegotiated UBA loan. We also paid out AFREXIM’s loan with a Bank of Industry loan, which we were able to procure at a 2 per cent interest rate. Beyond this, we are not indebted to any other financial institution except the Energy Bank of Ghana, which is a member of our group,” he stated.

Commenting on the controversy concerning discrepancy in fares charged by some foreign airlines in the West African sub-region, Ibrahim said that was not an issue and could not be faulted because of the fluctuating exchange rates of the naira to the dollar, while such currencies as the Ghanaian Cedi was relatively stable, which caused a lot of volatility in airline incomes in Nigeria, a situation that could lead to a loss for them if not charged on their customers’ tickets.

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