Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation for Nigeria, reaffirmed on Wednesday that the contentious national airline, Nigerian Air, will soon begin operations.

After the Federal Executive Council’s weekly meeting, Mr. Sirika told reporters that the regulatory approval needed to start the national carrier’s flights was almost complete.

“Nigeria Air will soon start flying, we’ve got the aircrafts ready, they’re painted in the colours. We’ve crossed all the Ts and dotted the Is. We’re at stage five of the AOC issuance by the NCAA. Once that is done, the airline will begin to fly,” said Mr Sirika .

“There are five steps altogether; we have completed stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and are now at stage 5, where the aircraft is prepared to take off.”

The Muhammadu Buhari administration has drawn criticism from many Nigerians for attempting to launch a new national airline after the last national airline, Nigeria Airways, collapsed partly as a result of corruption.

However, the government, which has only been in power for approximately three months, has stated that the new carrier will only be partially owned by the government and will be run by a private partner. He insisted that it would be “soon.”

“Well, because the NCAA is in charge of issuing the AOC, I know it will happen very soon, with a focus on soon. Therefore, we fly as soon as we have the AOC, he explained.

However, a few Nigerian regional airlines have filed a lawsuit against the federal government, requesting that the court halt the establishment of a new national airline since doing so would give it unfair advantages over rivals.

An interim injunction prohibiting the Nigerian government from establishing its proposed national airline was imposed by a Federal High Court in Lagos last November.

The plaintiffs asked the court to decide on five issues in the originating summons of the case, one of which is whether the “entire process for the sale and transfer of shares of the 1st defendant to the 2nd defendant and its consortium by the 3rd and 4th defendants is in compliance with the provisions of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Est.) Act, 2005, Federal Competition Act.”