Nigeria's minister of state on aviation Hadi Sirika said in a tweet that he regrets "to announce that the Federal Executive Council has taken the tough decision to suspend the National Carrier Project in the interim."

During the official unveiling of the project at the 2018 Farnborough Air Show in July, Sirika said that Nigeria Air (Lagos) was in "advanced" talks regarding aircraft orders and their financing. The carrier planned to launch operations in December this year. Nigeria Air would have been launched as a public/private partnership with the Nigerian government holding just a 5% stake in the carrier. The government held talks with foreign carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa) and Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) about their potential investment in the proposed new operator.

Sirika told Nigeria's Leadership newspaper that the decision to suspend the project had not been caused by pressure from stakeholders. The Nigerian government continues to believe that more air service was needed and that the Nigerian carriers were not delivering that air service.

Leadership also quoted an anonymous source as saying that the decision to shut down Nigeria Air was taken by the government's Economic Management Team (EMT). Instead, the Team reportedly chose to accelerate the search for a strategic investment partner who would finance and manage a new airline by itself.

The suspension of the project is already the third stillborn attempt by the Nigerian federal government to relaunch a national carrier following the collapse of Nigeria Airways (WT, Lagos) back in 2003. In 2013, the Nigeria One (Lagos) project was abandoned. Two years later the government held talks with Ethiopian, South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), and Lufthansa (LH, Frankfurt Int'l) about potentially relaunching a viable national carrier but they did not yield any material outcomes.

Despite being the continent's most populated country with the largest gross domestic product, Nigeria currently lacks a carrier that is strong enough to compete internationally. According to ch-aviation capacity data, Arik Air (W3, Lagos) (in its current much smaller form), Air Peace (P4, Lagos), and Med-View Airline (VL, Kano) combined control just 5.32% of weekly international seat capacity out of Nigeria. Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa) and Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l) each offer more than 10% by themselves.

Air Peace is planning to soon announce its inaugural long-haul routes to be served with B777-200(ER) and B777-300. Med-View Airline (VL, Kano) has added a B777-200(ER) to its fleet recently which also includes an inactive B767-300(ER). It has, however, not yet resumed or announced the resumption of its long-haul operations.