The seeming controversies and impunity, typified by last minute borrowings, subsidy payments, Ways and Means from Central Bank, (CBN), corruption within some Ministries Departments and Agencies, (MDAs), among others, trailing the outgoing administration have begun to assume dangerous dimensions as some stakeholders say might affect the smooth takeoff of the incoming administration, after inauguration on May 29, 2023.
One of the major challenges is the recent unveiling of National Air carrier by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, despite alleged pending court case instituted by the local operators.
Specifcally, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has accused Ethiopian Airlines of abusing the country’s court and violating aviation regulations in relation to the static display of Niger Air aircraft.
They are also accusing Sirika of masterminding and taking unilateral decisions on the airline which they considered as detrimental to the interests of the country and the citizens.
AON is calling for sanctions against Ethiopian Airlines by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the judiciary for its disobedience of court orders and regulations.
AON says the Minister of Aviation, Sirika disregarded recommendations to establish a private sector-driven national carrier and alleges his attempt to give a monopoly to Ethiopian Airlines, jeopardizing Nigeria’s economic interests.
The AON also accused the East African carrier, Ethiopian Airlines of gross abuse of the country’s court over its involvement in the static display of Nigeria Air aircraft.
AON is therefore asking the NCAA and the judiciary to sanction Ethiopian Airlines for flagrant disobedience of the court order and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs).
AON in a statement by Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, its Spokesman, said that Ethiopian Airlines failed to behave like a responsible corporate entity and allowed itself to be used as part of the “grand deception of Nigerians.”
The association emphasised that the airline was aware that the aircraft it landed in Abuja on Friday, May 26, 2023, didn’t belong to Nigeria Air and was not registered in Nigeria as required by the NCARs, yet flouted the country’s court order and Nigeria’s regulations.
AON added: “This goes to show that Ethiopia Airline operators have no iota of respect for our country, our laws, and regulatory agencies. It is our hope that Ethiopia Airlines does not get away with this disrespectful action.”
Besides, AON explained that the Ministerial Committee on the Establishment of a National Carrier recommended the setting up of a national airline that is private sector-driven with minimum government involvement.
The body accused Sirika of jettisoning the recommendation by personally driving the project from logo design, unveiling at the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom, establishment of the company, and providing offices for it among others.
It further alleged that as soon as the recommendation was jettisoned, every other thing about Nigeria Air was engulfed in secrecy.
It also purported that Sirika had made an attempt to kill the entire indigenous operators and hand over the monopoly to Ethiopian Airlines in a “dubious and fraudulent way against the economic interest of Nigeria,” which it said compelled it to approach the court to stop the airline from berthing.
It added: “For us, it is a patriotic action to save the Nigerian Government, people, and economy from exploitation and to also protect the Nigerian aviation sector and our investments.
“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 Airlines is already operating multiple landing rights in Nigeria, British Airways is owned by IAG, a company registered in Spain, but owned by Qatar as the major shareholder.
“The Canadian government owns less than 7 percent of Air Canada’s National carrier. Takatso, a Pan-African consortium, recently took over South Africa Airways and others. All we are saying is, let the right thing be done, the right way, for strictly the interest of Nigeria and her aviation industry.”
AON also lauded the NCAA, under the leadership of Capt. Musa Nuhu, its Director-General for not succumbing to pressure to issue an AOC to Nigeria Air.
AON declared that AOC was also a safety certificate by which the NCAA certifies that the holder had demonstrated that it is fit to conduct safe flight operations.
To achieve this, it said a prospective airline is put through a rigorous five-phase certification process before it is granted the certificate.
It emphasized that the implication of granting an AOC to Nigeria Air without it successfully going through the process was considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as a serious infraction, which is also punishable.
It explained that this act was capable of causing Nigeria to be blacklisted by aviation safety agencies like the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).
It added that airlines of such countries would not come into Nigeria, while Nigerian airlines would not also be allowed to operate in those countries.
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It added: “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.”