Domestic airlines, under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria, have expressed gratitude to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority for saving the aviation industry from the consequences of issuing an Air Operators Certificate to Nigeria Air without due process.
The association in a statement on Sunday by its spokesperson, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, also appreciated the courage of the NCAA team, led by its Director General, Capt. Musa Nuhu, for insisting that the right things must be done to protect the safety and integrity of the Nigerian aviation industry.
The Federal Government on Friday reportedly took delivery of the first plane of the country’s national carrier, Nigeria Air, amid protest from local airline operators that it was contrary to a court order, which barred the government from taking further action on the project.
The AON comments come following reports of the unveiling and water splash of the first aircraft associated with the Nigeria Air project; recent uproar and inquiries from Nigerians and the media.
Okonkwo said the AOC is a safety certificate by which the NCAA certifies that an airline is fit to conduct safe flight operations.
“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. 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, has 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 jeopardised.
“Hence, we in the AON continue to salute the courage of the NCAA team led by Capt. Musa Nuhu, for insisting that the right things must be done to protect the safety and integrity of the Nigerian aviation industry, which they have nurtured to an enviable world standard,” said the AON.
He, however, said that the consequences of issuing an AOC to Nigeria Air without undergoing due process could be catastrophic, adding that for an airline to obtain AOC certification, it must undergo a five-phase certification process, which is a rigorous exercise.
He went on to say that he considers any unconventional granting of AOC without conforming to the standard due process as a serious infraction, punishable by law.
In addition, granting an AOC to Nigeria Air without it successfully going through the standard process could lead to Nigeria’s blacklisting by aviation safety agencies like the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Subsequently, this could impact the country’s aviation industry as airlines from other countries will not come to Nigeria, and Nigerian airlines will not be allowed to operate in those countries.
The statement tagged “Nigeria Air: Recent so-called flight inauguration and AON concern” noted that the failure of Nigeria to pass the upcoming ICAO audit could result in further penalties, including losing its FAA CAT-1 Certification and Nigerian airlines being unable to lease aircraft to boost their operations.
The AON said no lessor will trust the safety certification process of the NCAA if it overlooks the due process of issuing an AOC to Nigeria Air.
Furthermore, Okonkwo stated that the aircraft used for the static display in Abuja on May 26, 2023, was not the first flight of Nigeria Air into Abuja.
He explained that the water salute given to the aircraft was a customary practice that typically marks the first flight of an aircraft to an airport. “However, the aircraft in question was an Ethiopian Airline property with an Ethiopian registration number (ET-APL) that entered Nigeria as an ET flight,” he stated.
He went on to say that it is evident that there has been a significant public interest in the presentation of Nigeria Air, and the AON hopes to provide clarity on the matter.
“At this time, they stress that Nigeria Air has not received an AOC from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, which is the legal authority for the issuance of such certificates. Therefore, the airline cannot commence flight operations just yet,” Okonkwo added.
The association further raised concerns over the establishment of Nigeria Air, which has been shrouded in secrecy since the Ministerial Committee on the Establishment of a National Carrier recommended that the national carrier be private sector-driven with minimal government involvement.
Okonkwo alleged that the Minister ignored this recommendation and has been overseeing the establishment of Nigeria Air, from designing the logo to unveiling it at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK and providing offices, among other things.
The AON has also claimed that there are dangerous agendas to eliminate all indigenous operators and hand over a monopoly to Ethiopian Airlines, which is already operating multiple landing rights in Nigeria.
“On further investigation, we discovered some mind burgling dangerous agenda to kill the entire indigenous operators and handover monopoly to Ethiopian Airline dubiously and fraudulently against the economic interest of Nigeria, hence our court action supported by strong material evidence. 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,” he stressed.
He said that the AON has taken legal action against Ethiopian Airlines, accusing the airline of brazenly disobeying a competent Nigerian court order and allowing itself to be part of the grand deception of Nigerians.
Ethiopian Airlines landed an aircraft in Abuja on Friday and was greeted with a water salute, even though the aircraft did not belong to Nigeria Air and was not registered in Nigeria as required by Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations.
The AON stressed that Ethiopian Airlines’ actions show a lack of respect for Nigeria and its laws and regulatory agencies.
The association is hoping that Ethiopia Airlines will be held accountable for the disrespectful actions and that the establishment of Nigeria Air will be done in a way that truly benefits Nigeria’s aviation industry.
The AON maintains that they do not care about the ownership of Nigeria Air as long as due process is followed and the interests of Nigeria and its aviation industry are protected.
“The question is, would Ethiopia allow a Nigerian airline to brazenly flout the orders of an Ethiopian court or violate the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Regulations as it did in Abuja on Friday, May 26? This goes to show that Ethiopia’s Airline Operators have no iota of respect for our country, our laws, and our regulatory agencies. We hope that Ethiopia Airlines does not get away with this disrespectful action,” he added.