At least 50 airlines which operated in Nigeria from independence day on October 1, 1960 have gone into extinction, checks by the Daily Trust have shown.
While most of the airlines were owned by Nigerians, others were jointly owned with partners from countries in Africa and Europe. Few of the airlines lasted for more than one year in operation.
Some of the airlines brought aircraft but never conveyed passengers before they went under.
Nigerian Airways Limited (NAL), established in 1958, two years before independence, was the mother of all the defunct airlines.
The NAL was liquidated in 2004 by former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Following the liquidation of the national carrier, many Nigerian airlines were established but did not see the light of the day.
The defunct airlines included Flash Airline; Hold Trade Airline; Gas Air; Jambo Express; Chachangi; IRS Airlines, Savannah Airline, Albarka Airline; Intercontinental Airline; Air Mid-West; and HAK Air.
Others were EAS Airline; Nicon Airways; Virgin Nigeria Airline; Air Nigeria; Falcon Air; Sosoliso Airline; Zenith Airline; Barnas Airline; Space World International Airline; Dasab Airline; Fresh Airline; Trias Airline; Bell-View; Freedom Airline; Okada Air; Concord Airline (owned by the late Chief MKO Abiola); Associated Airline and Air Taraba (serving Taraba, Bornu and Adamawa states).
The list also included United Air Service; Aras Airline Ltd; Nigeria Global; Nigeria Eagle (which commissioned an aircraft but didn’t fly and had to take the aircraft back); Harco Airline; Premier Airline; Al Bashir; Trans-Sahara Airline; ADC; Oriental Airline; Axiom Airline; Forward Air; Flok Air; Das Air and Cargo.
Recent developments in the aviation industry have raised concerns about the strength of the airlines with the Aero Contractors, the oldest airline after Nigeria Airways, suspending its operation.
An industry expert told our correspondent that the possibility of Aero bouncing back and returning to full operations was slim.
At the moment only eight Nigerian airlines were operating, namely, Arik Air; Med-View Airlines; Air Peace; Azman; First Nation and Dana Air, Max Air and Kabo Air.
An aviation expert, Capt. Ibrahim Yinusa, blamed the high mortality rate of the Nigerian airlines on factors including ignorance on the part of the owners/investors, unfavourable government policies/appointment of non-aviators as ministers, poor management of income by owners and individual ego.
He said: “Most of the investors in aviation are cajoled into it. They are ignorant. They don’t know running an airline is capital intensive. Again, some use the airline as a front. They must have looted the government treasury and invested it into aviation, using fronts that are not aviators.”
Also speaking, Mr Chris Aligbe, said: “Their (operators) models were not right. They used wrong models and some of those who entered the airline industry early were not professionals. They were pure business people and they also used the airlines not directly as airlines, they used them for other purposes.
“What I think and sincerely recommend that government should declare the airline industry an infant industry because, in spite of 32 years of its existence.”
He recalled that the industry was deregulated in 1985/86 by the Ibrahim Babangida-led administration, saying that since then, up to 32 airlines have collapsed.
“The major one, the Nigeria Airways, government liquidated it by itself, unfortunately,” he said.