Air Nigeria, plot to kill indigenous airlines, Minister says project in good faith

  • Operators laud NCAA over stance on AOC, reject new carrier


Airline operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have likened the plan to establish Nigeria Air as a dangerous plot to kill the entire indigenous operators and handover monopoly to Ethiopian Airlines in “A dubious and fraudulent way against the economic interests of Nigeria, hence our court action supported by strong material evidence”.

The airlines in a statement to the media explained that that decision by the Federal Government forced it to seek redress in a law court with a view to stopping the project.

But the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika had denied the allegation saying the project was in good faith and was done in the good interest of the country and one that is private sector driven and one that the government has minority stakes, and one in tandem with global best practices.

Sirika had recently said he invited Nigerian carriers to own stakes in the new airline; an action he said was rebuffed because of the selfish interest of the carriers.

He further stated that he sold the idea to them in many of the meetings he held with them by giving them the option of first refusal in a deal in that they would have owned stakes, hinting that his ministry followed all the rules in the setting up of the airline.

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It however remains to be seen what the new administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would do with the carrier. Two options are left to the incoming government whether to continue with the project by fine-tuning grey areas by revisiting the project or throw it outright.

Not a few admitted that Nigeria desire a private sector-driven national carrier like it is done in many parts of the work but decried the process that birthed the controversial Nigeria Air.

Newly elected AON executives

The operators lauded the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), under the leadership of Captain Musa Nuhu, for not succumbing to pressure to issue an Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) to Nigeria Air.

The operators also said their action and move against the establishment of the airline was borne out of patriotism and nothing else.

The group was reacting to the static display of the Nigeria Air aircraft on Friday, saying everything about the plan from the inception till now was wrong.

The AON in a statement signed by its spokesman, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, said they would not allow such to sail because everything was shrouded and not in the interest of Nigeria’s aviation and the Nigerian people.

While noting that granting an AOC to Nigeria Air without going through the necessary process, has grave consequences, the AON said; ‘The Air Operators Certificate (AOC) is also a safety certificate by which the NCAA certifies that the holder has demonstrated that it is fit to conduct safe flight operations. To achieve this, a prospective airline is put through a rigorous five-phase certification process before it is granted. The implication of granting an AOC to Nigeria Air without it successfully going through the process is considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as a serious infraction, which is also punishable.”

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Chairman, House of Representative Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji

“It is capable of causing Nigeria to be blacklisted by aviation safety agencies like the US FAA and the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). Further implications include that airlines of those countries will not come into Nigeria, and Nigerian airlines will not be allowed to operate into those countries. It also means that Nigeria will definitely fail the upcoming ICAO audit and, by way of further penalty, lose its FAA CAT-1 Certification. Nigerian airlines will also not be able to lease aircraft to boost their operations because no lessor will trust the safety certification process of the NCAA.”

“As indigenous operators, we are happy and grateful to the NCAA for saving us from this punishment by resisting the pressure from Minister Hadi Sirika to grant an AOC to Nigeria Air without going through the due process. Besides, aviation is an essential sector that is critical to the economic development of Nigeria or any country.

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“If tampered with, it will have a negative expanded multiplier effect on all aspects of the economy and life of Nigeria. AON, as a strong stakeholder, have a national and patriotic duty to guard against such happening. Otherwise, our investments in the aviation sector of Nigeria, running into billions of dollars, would have been jeopardized”.

Obiorah stated that their action was borne out of the desire to save their investments in the aviation industry, saying, “Otherwise, AON really cares less about the ownership of Nigeria Air if the intentions are genuine and for the common good with strict compliance with the due process.

“After all, Ethiopian Airline is already operating multiple landing rights in Nigeria, British Airways are owned by IAG, a company registered in Spain but owned by Qatar as the major shareholder. The Canadian government owns less than 7% of Air Canada’s National carrier. Takatso, a Pan-African consortium, recently took over South Africa Airways, all we are saying is let the right thing be done the right way, for strictly the interest of Nigeria and her Aviation industry”, he said.

Wole Shadare