Air Transport World

Nigeria Airways struggles to increase efficiency; government's insistence on profitability and support for domestic charter operators provide new challenge for Nigeria Airways.

Lagos--Nigeria Airways has been more beset with problems during its 27-year history than most African airlines--and that is saying a lot. Many of these problems stem from the vast changes that have taken place in Nigeria following the discovery of off-shore oil in 1958, the year the company was founded, (as a successor to West African Airways Corp.).

Nigeria quickly became the richest nation in black Africa as well as the most populous (the population is variously estimated at between 75 and 100 million) and the demand for both domestic and international air services soared. Even if the country had enjoyed political stability Nigeria Airways would have had diffculty in coping. Airports in Nigeria were inadequate, the airline's technical base at lagos' Ikeja airport was geared to Douglas DC-3 maintenance and few Nigerians had been given management training by the company's predecessor WAAC.

The various Nigerian governments, civilian and military, involved themselves in management appointments which were all too often made on the basis of political, tribal or religious affiliations. Occasionally a government has entrusted the management of Nigeria Airways to expatriates but their hands were always tied because certain staff members in key positions, however inefficient, could not be dismissed because of the aforementioned affiliations.

KLM pattern

The most successful attempt by non-Nigerians to reorganize the airline was between 1979 and 1981 when the then-government entrusted the management of Nigeria Airways to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The pattern created by KLM is still there, but many of the Nigerians trained to take over the management positions vacated by the KLM team were dismissed when the present military government came to power at the beginning of 1984. …

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