For the first two parts of this blog series see:
Just this month Arik Air has been taken over by the Nigerian government, but you'd have to be a fool to think that they have a clue what to do with an airline given their history. The national carrier Nigeria Airways was turned into such a disaster zone that its survival into the 2000s was a staggering indictment, not to mention an improbable feat. It didn't have to be that way however and there were several plausible opportunities when Skypower could have been saved. Air Nigeria was perhaps one of these.
Back in Nigeria the new airline was to lease Nigeria Airways 4 remaining widebodies (2 DC-10s and 2 A310s) and pay Nigeria Airways US$1 million a month for them. The new airline had also begun to recruit 100 graduates for new cabin crew. Unfortunately the new plans collapsed almost as soon as they were forming, with unrest from Nigeria Airways powerful unions as well as from within the government itself. The new airline's timing was also unfortunately coincidental with the fall of General Ibrahim Babangida, who had impressively taken part in no less than 6 coups before then!
After the presidential election result was annulled when he didn't win, Babaginda oversaw a decline towards anarchy, which by the end of August 1993 saw the country's economy basically stop. Babaginda finally stepped down and another General swiftly seized power. This anarchy in the government had a knock on effect on the national airline and Joji was replaced by Andrew Agom. Agom quickly withdrew any plans to setup Air Nigeria and the farce at Nigeria Airways was allowed to continue. The Air Nigeria idea got as far as the repaint of at least one of the DC-10s and one of the A310s into a smart new dark green scheme. Following the collapse of the concept the DC-10 was repainted by 1995 into the old Nigeria Airways scheme albeit with the green N and eagle logo rather than the elephant. Of the widebodies only the last DC-10, 5N-ANN, and one of the A310s saw any major usage into the late 90s.
Joji was later accused of misappropriating over $11.5 million of Nigeria Airways funds. Given this was Nigeria it would be amazing if he hadn't have been corrupt in some way! Perhaps his was just another attempt to steal all along? Anyway by March 1995 the entire international fleet of the carrier was grounded and Agom's position was under serious scrutiny itself. Various proposals were being put forward, including a modified version of the Air Nigeria scheme, but instead seemingly without much of a plan the government sacked the entire management team in October. At the same time they planned to merge the Federal Civil Aviation Authority and the Nigeria Airports Authority. The new managing director, Grp Capt. Peter N Gana of the Nigerian air force, had a thankless task with by then the fleet reduced to one DC-10, one A310 and three 737-200s (two of which crashed within a year).
The deregulation of the Nigeria air market was another nail in the coffin of the flag carrier, although a lot of the competition itself was often a basket case. By 1998 Nigeria Airways barely functioned but a deal with British Airways to resume services to Heathrow using one of BA's 747s wet-leased offered a lifeline. This was yet another false dawn however and the service was over by August 2000. All but dead but not knowing it Nigeria Airways struggled on until 2003. Since then various other carriers have tried to take up the mantle of flag carrier but even once successful airlines like Arik Air seem unable to escape the general malaise surrounding doing business in Nigeria.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: