THE Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has been inundated with calls and inquiries from the media and well-meaning Nigerians about its position on the purported commencement of flight operations by Nigeria Air after the static display in Abuja of an aircraft with ‘Nigeria Air’ written on it.
As a result of the unprecedented public interest on the issue of the presentation of Nigeria Air, we, therefore, wish to clarify as follows:
- THAT WATER SALUTE ON FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2023
The aircraft that landed at Abuja on Friday, May 26, 2023, was greeted with a water salute or shower. Water salute is usually used to mark the first flight of an aircraft to an airport. However, the aircraft that was used for the static display in Abuja on Friday was not the first flight of Nigeria Air into Abuja. This is because Nigeria Air has not commenced flight operations as required by law. Nigeria Air has not been issued with an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which is the legal authority for the issuance of such certificate and, as such, cannot conduct flight operations. Furthermore, the aircraft is an Ethiopian Airline property that, even during the static display in Abuja, operated with an Ethiopian registration number ET-APL. A further check at Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) will show that the flight entered Nigeria as an ET flight.
- THE ISSUE OF AOC
The Air Operators Certificate (AOC) is a safety certificate by which the NCAA certifies that the holder has demonstrated the fitness 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 successfully going through the process is considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as a serious infraction, which is also punishable. 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 be unable 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 critical to Nigeria’s or any country’s economic development. If tampered with, it will have adverse expanded multiplier effects on all aspects of the economy and life of Nigeria.
As vital stakeholders, AON 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 jeopardized. 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.
- ESTABLISHMENT OF NIGERIA AIR
The Ministerial Committee on the Establishment of a National Carrier recommended the establishment of a National Carrier that is private sector-driven with minimum government involvement. That was jettisoned by the Minister, who does everything from designing the logo, unveiling it at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK, establishing the company, providing offices etc., while the so-called private investors are saying and doing nothing. As soon as that recommendation was jettisoned, everything about Nigeria Air became engulfed in secrecy.
On further investigation, we discovered some mind burgling dangerous agenda to kill the entire indigenous operators and hand over the monopoly to Ethiopian Airlines 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 also protect the Nigerian aviation sector and our investments.
Otherwise, AON cares less about the ownership of Nigeria Air if the intentions are genuine and for the common good with strict compliance with 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% of Air Canada’s National carrier. Takatso, a Pan-African consortium, recently took over South Africa Airways, etc. All we are saying is, LET THE RIGHT THING BE DONE, THE RIGHT WAY, FOR STRICTLY THE INTEREST OF NIGERIA AND HER AVIATION INDUSTRY.
- ABUSE OF NIGERIA’S COURT BY ETHIOPIAN AIRLINE
Ethiopian Airlines has not behaved like a responsible corporate entity. It is not only brazenly disobeying an order of a competent Nigerian court – the Federal High Court of Nigeria – but also allowing itself to be used as part of the grand deception of Nigerians. Ethiopian Airlines know that the aircraft it landed in Abuja on Friday, May 26, 2023, does not belong to Nigeria Air and is not registered in Nigeria as required by Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations.
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 Airline Operators have no iota of respect for our country, our laws, and our regulatory agencies. It is our hope that Ethiopia Airlines does not get away with this disrespectful action.