The federal government of Nigeria launched plans for a new national carrier, Nigeria Air, seemingly undeterred by a history of running national carriers aground.
Indeed, Nigerian aviation workers are still demanding severance packages from the now-defunct pioneer Nigerian Airways and they, along with fellow Nigerians, are kicking against the new airline.
Many Nigerians, including active aviation unions from now-defunct airways, are skeptical. In fact, aviation workers from the country's pioneer airline, Nigerian Airways, are still demanding severance packages since the company's demise in 2003.
Launching of the first Nigeria Airways international flight in 1958. The lady in the picture, Miss Christie Iugete, was the first Nigerian air hostess. Others in the picture include: SL Akintola, TOS Benson, Udo Udoma, and O. Fadahunsi, Chairman, Nigeria Airways. Credit: TOS pic.twitter.com/qmG5WQk6ph 
— Onigegewura (@OnigegeWura) July 20, 2018 
In 2004, Richard Branson's Virgin Airways undertook a joint venture with the Nigerian government and floated Air Nigeria . However, Virgin withdrew from the business in 2010. By September 2012, Air Nigeria had ceased its operations: 
I'm old enough to remember Nigeria's first private sector led national airline.
It ended after government sent “in heavies to smash up our lounge with sledgehammers… the behaviour of the authorities was similar to the Mafioso in US in 1930s” [Richard Branson, 2008] pic.twitter.com/r1Sv9YzLpd 
— Christian Purefoy (@purefoyAMEBO) July 19, 2018 
The reasons behind failed attempts to resuscitate Nigerian Airways have never been disclosed but many blame it on inept management. In 2013, Nigerian businessman Pascal Dozie said  that Nigerian Airways failed due to lack of “proper management.” In addition, doing business with the Nigerian government is toxic due to  a “hostile operating environment, unfriendly policies and exploitative taxation.”
Last year, President Buhari resisted the launch of a new airline because “Nigerians need to know how we lost the one we had, ” referring to Nigerian Airways. His remarks raised serious concerns that his motive to go ahead with the launch now may be to score a political advantage on the heels of 2019 presidential elections.
Hadi Sirika, Nigeria's Minister of Aviation, tried to dampen distrust by saying that Nigeria Air will run on a public-private partnership model :
This airline is a business and not a social service. It is not intended to kill any airline in Nigeria but complement it and promote it. It must be done in the right way so that it will be here to stay. Government will not hold shares beyond five per cent at the topmost. This airline has the backing of the government. Government will come up with funding according to the business case that has been delivered to the government.
But trade unions have alerted the government that they could truncate the new national carrier if their demands are not met.
As of April 2018, aviation unions claim the federal government owes  45 billion Nigerian Naira (an estimated 125 million United States Dollars) to ex-workers of the now-defunct Nigerian Airways. The two main trade unions of the sector organized a strike  on March 19, giving the government a 14-day ultimatum for the payment, but later canceled upon reassurance by Sirika the payout had been secured and only needed to be approved by parliament.
In an interview with the Independent,  Comrade Olayinka Abioye, General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), gave a stark warning about the new carrier:
We are not concerned about this new national carrier even though it is our baby with supposed benefits to the country. We are much more concerned about the families of the defunct national carrier, Nigerian Airways, some of whom have died. We are much more concerned about those who are living and managing to live and we are calling on this minister and government to speed up action in whatever capacity they can to ensure that Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance, make releases and pay our people. Enough is enough.
The unions may truncate the process of the new national carrier; you can take that from me. There are so many fundamental issues begging for answers in some of these things. The national carrier that we are advocating for is not what they are planning now. We said private sector-driven national carrier, what is the problem with this government? The same government that said it didn’t have money to revamp our comatose airports is now spending $308 million as take-off grant for the airline. The same government wants to bring in six new aircraft from God-knows-where. Where then is the intervention of the private sector in all these? At what point is private sector going to be involved? These are issues that should be tackled. Then, how do you want to unveil a national carrier and take it overseas, leaving Nigeria behind. Those politicking are too much and we are not interested.
Nigerian netizens debate Nigeria Air's viability
Skeptics of the newly launched Nigeria Air shared their doubts on Twitter while fans saw this as a chance to boast online about their national pride:
In our haste to condemn anything ‘government-owned’, we underestimate the lifting effect of seeing something carrying the colours of Nigeria flying in the skies and a business with Nigeria in its name doing well. If only for those reasons, I'm a fan of #NigeriaAir  pic.twitter.com/6j6lFgoNY2 
— Gbenga Olorunpomi (@GbengaGOLD) July 19, 2018 
Dr. Joe Abah urges Nigerians to be more “positive” about the new airline:
Negativity is so easy. All you need to keep saying is “It won’t work.” You have nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work, you can say “I told you so!” If it works, you can say “I was only worried based on past experience.” This suits the intellectually lazy. No need to strive or think
— Dr. Joe Abah (@DrJoeAbah) July 19, 2018 
However, many Nigerians are not buying the positivity and national pride rhetoric about Nigeria Air. Former World Bank Vice President, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili spoke to the need for better policies and regulatory frameworks in addition to infrastructural concerns:
The Aviation sector SADDENS me greatly. This is a sector that with the right policy®ulatory framework complemented with quality safety standards & security infrastructure will SURELY attract global capital.
But NO. Lovers of Statist system want to give us “National Carrier”.
— Oby Ezekwesili (@obyezeks) May 31, 2018 
Some refer to the success  of privatizing telecommunications, when the government fully deregulated the industry in 1999, as an example of what's possible for Nigerian aviation.
Journalist Nicholas Ibekwe countered that Nigerians are not being negative but need sound evidence in support of the new airline's viability:
Nobody wants it to fail. We're just asking you people to put the cart before the horse; to show your working, not wuruwuru to the answer. Show us the investors. Let's see the deal signed.
Would you allow the owner of a 5% equity in a business where you own 95% lead negotiations? https://t.co/1pevthKcyi 
— Nicholas Ibekwe (@nicholasibekwe) July 20, 2018 
Twitter user “AndyRoidO” said that there is “no basis for optimism” about a national carrier because “we have tried and failed multiple times.”
What you Nigerians need to learn is that Nigerian Government as an institution, regardless of Party, has earned our scepticism. Our post-independence history is a blockchain of bad policy after bad policy. There is no basis for optimism about a national career.
— orwelliANDYstopia (@andyRoidO) July 19, 2018 
And a national carrier is something we have tried and failed multiple times. So on what basis are you hopeful that an administration that has failed more than others will be successful at an endeavour where the others have failed? Did they curse you to welcome your own poverty?
— orwelliANDYstopia (@andyRoidO) July 19, 2018 
In a sane country, Govt would acknowledge the graveyard of failed national carriers & abortive attempts, identify for us what caused those failures, and tell us why it will be different this time, with concrete details of improved steps. But you people give your support cheaply.
— orwelliANDYstopia (@andyRoidO) July 19, 2018