Aviation practice in Nigeria is now three years shy of becoming 100 years old. In distant 1920, which was barely 17 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight in1903, a British Royal Air Force aircraft landed on a polo field in Maidugiri. Though it started as a purely military operation, it assumed the character of a civilian operation in the decades after.
The Royal Air Force continued to operate in West Africa and by 1925, the British had stationed a squadron in the Sudan. The British commander sought approval from the Colonial Office in England to operate frequent cross-country flights from Khartoum to Maiduguri.
On May 15, 1946, Nigeria and the Gold Coast met. The outcome of this meeting was the establishment of the West Africa Airways Corporation (WAAC). WAAC took over the major air routes that had been established by the Royal Air Force in West Africa up till 1956. At independence in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah pulled Ghana out of WAAC to establish Ghana Airways.
Inspired by Nkrumah’s decision, Nigeria’s Minister of Communication and Aviation, Chief SamuelLadoke Akintola, addressed the parliament on the need for a Nigerian Airways. In June 1958, Chief Samuel Akintola travelled to Holland and Great Britain to sign an agreement with the Fokker Aircraft Works in Holland, the company from which the new Nigeria Airways would be buying its middle range jets for Nigeria’s domestic and West African routes.
On August 11, 1958, a news headline in the DailyTimes read: ‘£66 million required to launch new Nigeria Airline.’ On October 1, 1958, the West African Airways Corporation was renamed WAAC (Nigeria) Limited with the Nigerian government jointly owning the shares with the British Overseas AirwaysCorporation and Elder Dempster. At that time, Nigeria owned fifty-one percent of the shares
Flying away from this era, Nigeria airways has been depressingly poorly managed, mostly because of the cancerous corruption that had unremittingly raped the aviation industry. This has led to many avoidable deaths from avoidable crashes. Nigeria now has many private business owners in the industry yet the situation is unrepentantly the same. A memorabilia on aircraft crashes from 1969 to 2013 might help show how the Nigerian Aviation industry has terribly derailed from the satirical mission-yet possible in the picture that gave birth to this write-up. Between 1969 and 2013 Nigeria recorded at least 31 heart-wrenching fatal plane crashes.
Responding to criticism over the crash of an Associated Airlines plane that killed 14 persons, Stella Oduah, the then minister for Aviation during Jonathan’s administration bizarrely attributed it to “an act of God.” As if that was not enough, she added that plane crashes are “inevitable.”
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Caring less about her job and the lives of the passengers under her ministry, allegedly requested that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority purchase bulletproof cars for her. The officials obliged, spending $1.6 million of the agency’s funds to buy two BMW SUVs to appease Oduah’s vanity. That was a woman in charge of an organization that complains of underfunding and lacks many of the essential up-to-date equipment that is standard everywhere else all over the world. This is shocking, but unsurprising.
Will the Nigeria Airways truthfully ever be a super intercontinental national carrier with over 1,500 destinations across the globe? We have a healthy disregard for impossibility, but for this to be achieved truly lies in the hands of those in power. True power lies with the people –a people that are not slumbering, a people that are not being led for 60 long days from a sick bed in another man’s country. Greennews.ng calls for an end to the unending tide of corruption, and an urgent radio-therapy to kill the cancerous cells in the Nigerian Aviation sector. May the labours of our heroes past motivate us to be better, provided we are taught our history well in school. Together, we can!