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No doubt, in many climes, especially Africa, civil aviation authorities face enormous pressure, particularly from powerful airline operators, politicians and within the system itself. Ability to withstand such pressure would readily stand the country’s civil aviation authority out and guarantee air safety. WOLE SHADARE writes that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is on the right path to saving the industry from avoidable accidents as Azman and other operators have a penchant for compromising safety
Events in the past week have further led to depression in the Nigerian aviation sector. Burst tyres’ occurrences initially started like a one-off. Flight delay by virtually all the airlines in Nigeria compounded the woes of travellers and one that took joy out of air travel.
It is not as if flight delays are new in our clime, the manner and long hours of the delay put a lot of travellers on the edge and appears as if there was no solution in sight. These were some of the serious issues the sector had to grapple with in the past weeks.
NCAA stops Azman
The situation got to a head last week as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) applied its powers pursuant to Section 35 (2) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006 and Part 188.8.131.52 (A) of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) 2015 with the suspension of Azman Air.
The suspension was to enable the Authority conduct an audit of the airline to determine the root cause(s) of the incidents, and recommend corrective actions to forestall reoccurrence.
An Azman Air plane from Kaduna to Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos had a landing gear problem, which has become frequent with the airline.
The aviation regulatory agency faulted the pilot that flew the aircraft from Kaduna as a terrible sound was noticed after takeoff. Despite that, he continued with the journey.
Recurring tyre burst
It would be recalled that a Boeing 737-500 aircraft belonging to Azman Air had a burst tyre on landing at the runway of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport terminal in Lagos on February 16, 2021. The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) temporarily closed the runway.
The alarming trend of tyre failures in combination with improper tyre maintenance procedures were a clear and strong indication of an accident chain formation in its final stages. There was an urgent need to break the accident chain before a completely avoidable national tragedy occurs and that was exactly what NCAA did.
There is no responsible civil aviation authority in any part of the world that will fold its arms and wait for the next incident to occur, perhaps a fatal accident, before taking action.
The aviation industry in Nigeria is experiencing steady increase of aircraft tyre bursts particularly on the B737 aircraft type, which forms 80 per cent of aircraft types used in the country.
Penultimate week, an Air Peace aircraft was involved in serious incident of tyre burst after landing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The aircraft, with 127 passengers and six crew members onboard, was en-route Lagos from Abuja, when the plane had a burst tyre on landing on Runway 18R of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and taxied to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) to park.
Move to unseat NCAA DG
Events in the last few weeks indicated how NCAA had been put under immense pressure by some operators who have largely carried themselves as bigger than the industry.
The aviation regulatory body had been resolute in carrying out a far reaching oversight of a sector that has been badly affected by COVID-19 and one that is on life support.
There are, however, allegations of clandestine moves by some powerful airline operators to ensure that the Director- General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, was removed from office in the last reorganisation carried out by President Muhammadu Buhari, which led to the reappointment of Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru, an aircraft engineer.
The president also approved the appointment of Professor Bako Mansur Matazu as new Director-General of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, (NIMET), who replaces Professor Sani Abubakar Mashi and the appointment of Capt. Modibbo Alkali Mahmud as the new Rector of the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, (NCAT), Zaria.
As the country was analysing the suspension of Azman Air occasioned by serious safety concern, Managing Director of the airline, Alhaji Abdulmunaf Sarina, startled the sector with allegations that the grounding of his airline over serious safety issue was a vendetta, alleging that the refusal of the airline to part with N15 million for a deal between it and Nuhu long before he assumed office as helmsman of the agency led to the decision to ground the airline.
Nuhu, through NCAA, has debunked the claim by Sarina, saying that between November 20 and 22, 2017, Nigeria hosted the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) World Aviation Forum (IWAF/3) in Abuja.
The sponsorship of this event, NCAA said, was sought from aviation organisations, including Azman Air, through a letter from the then Federal Ministry of Transportation (Aviation).
“The Director General, who at that time was the representative of Nigeria on the Council of ICAO, and a key member of the organising committee of IWAF/3, delivered the letter of sponsorship to the management of Azman Air while he was on a family visit to Kano.
The Chairman and the CEO of Azman Air both promised to revert, but never did. The request for sponsorship of IWAF/3 can be independently verified with other Nigerian airlines.
“In addition, a publication, ICAO STATES TODAY, carried an Azman Air advert. The airline subscribed to the advert in 2016, in preparation for the 39th General Assembly of ICAO, but till date, Azman Air has refused to pay the advert cost of $3,701, despite several reminders.
The invoice from the publisher of the magazine, FCM Communications based in Montreal, Canada, can be independently confirmed with the publisher,” NCAA said. Stakeholders have given massive support to the Agency for its duty in bringing sanity to a critical sector like aviation which is highly life dependent.
Piqued by the attitude of Azman Air towards safety and allegations by the owner of the airline against Nuhu, Chairman of Kings Airlines, Senator Musa Adede, described the action as ‘blackmail’ and one that could cast aspersions on the integrity of the aviation regulatory body, noting that this was capable to tarnishing the image of NCAA and, by extension, the country.
Adede stated that Nuhu had displayed exemplary character as representative of Nigeria in ICAO council and Flight Operations Inspector in NCAA. Adede, who described Nuhu as a thorough bred professional, said rather than look for whom to blame for what had befallen it, the carrier should endeavour to brace for audit in a bid to scaling all safety concerns raised by NCAA.
He decried the attitude of the airline and was particularly sad that the action was coming from the owner of the carrier, who is the President of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON); a situation, he said, was capable of bringing the aviation industry in the country to disrepute.
His words: “What played out in the last couple of days that led to the suspension of Azman Air’s operations is not good for the country. The whole world is watching us and we cannot throw away the gains of what we have achieved over a long period of time.
“The Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, has done what he is supposed to do as it concerns air safety. The aviation industry is not regulated on sentiments and we should commend NCAA for taking measures to prevent another preventable accident. The DG is credible and means well for the industry.
He is a thorough bred professional and a man of huge integrity.” A former Secretary-General of AON and Chairman of Fly Hudson Aviation, Alhaji Mohammed Tukur, also condemned the statement issued by the Azman Airlines management.
Tukur, who described the press statement by the airline as ‘reckless and unprofessional,’ said by such action, the Managing Director, Alhaji Faisal Abdulmunaf, was no longer fit to serve as the accountable manager of the airline. He also demanded that Azman owner should honourably resign his position as the chairman of the domestic airlines’ body, AON, because he has exhibited lack of integrity and honour to lead the body.
Tukur opined that for AZMAN to have towed the line of blackmail to respond to the action of NCAA indicated its lack of understanding of the aviation safety procedures in aviation industry.
There is no better time to support the regulatory body than now to maintain the highest level of safety. All over the world, a responsible and responsive CAA is the backbone of any strong aviation system globally.Google+