Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa International) remains optimistic about the finalisation of the Nigeria Air (NWB, Lagos) project for which it has already acquired three B737-8s - which in the meantime will be deployed by the mainline as well as its affiliate carriers ASKY Airlines in Togo, Malawi Airlines, and Zambia Airways.

Chief Commercial Officer Lemma Yadecha Gudeta told the Nigerian Tribune newspaper: "We even went to the level of acquiring three Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. We have already paid and entered into a contract; there is no option than for us to take those aeroplanes. We are going to use the planes here in Ethiopia, and we have partners in Africa; a very successful one in Togo in ASKY Airlines, and we have other ones in Zambia and Malawi." He added that the three -8s designated for Nigeria Air had arrived in Ethiopia in early March.

According to the ch-aviation PRO airlines module, Ethiopian Airlines' current B737-8 fleet numbers 17 aircraft, with 34 more to be delivered.

The airline was not immediately available for comment.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating the Nigeria Air project, espoused by the previous government of Muhammadu Buhari and former aviation minister Hadi Sirika as a joint-venture national carrier with a consortium of Nigerian investors, led by Ethiopian Airlines. The project fell apart with a change of government last year.

Gudeta told the Tribune that Ethiopian had been asked to bid for the project, had done so in good faith, and there had been nothing illegal about the process that was run by the state-owned Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC). Under the plan, Ethiopian would have taken a 49% stake in Nigeria Air, private Nigerian investors 46%, and the Nigerian government 5%. However, the nascent carrier's certification was put on hold in November 2022 when the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) lobby group of private airlines won a court interdict against its further establishment on anti-competitive grounds. A Nigeria Air demonstration flight operated by Ethiopian Airlines on the eve of Sirika's retirement solicited a media outcry and resulted in the EFCC inquiry.

Still, Gudeta expressed optimism that the present government under President Bola Tinubu would continue the national carrier project. Despite the Nigerian government's investigation into the project, he insisted that Ethiopian had followed Nigerian laws and expected to continue its involvement.

He further highlighted the low performance of African airlines in terms of traffic within the continent, emphasising the potential benefits of the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM) in improving connectivity and industry growth. While acknowledging challenges, he believed SAATM was progressing positively, citing recent bilateral agreements with Nigeria and increased access to other African markets as signs of advancement.