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Aviation Act to check illegal operators, breaches in industry

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Murtala Muhammad International Airport


72 out of 95 private aircraft in Nigeria registered overseas

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has assured aviation practitioners that the pending Civil Aviation Act will address irregularities in the sector, especially sharp practices by private jet operators.

Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said they were aware of irregularities and complaints about the general aviation, and were making moves to check all excesses.

Nuhu, who was the guest at African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) Speaker Webinar series on Wednesday, said business aircraft in the country are 95, out of which 72 are still not registered in Nigeria, in violation of the extant rules.

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Recall that the illegal incursion of private jet operators into commercial scheduled services and airlift of passengers for reward has been a dominant complaint lately.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations 2015, Part 18.2.3,1 stated that Air Transport License (ATL) holders and Airline Operating Permit (AOP) holders with valid Air Operators Certificate (AOC) are the only ones authorised to carry out charter operations in the country as no person shall use aircraft in Nigeria for hire and reward without the above requirements.

Nuhu confirmed the gross violation of the aviation rules with some private jet owners exploiting gaps in the Act. He observed that though regulating “the black market” was tough, the NCAA has not relented in carrying out due investigations and issuing sanctions to violators.

He added that the new Act and effective capacity in regulatory oversight would fully address the problem. The new Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, among others, is currently at the National Assembly awaiting passage.

The general aviation arm of Nigerian civil aviation has lately stabilised with about 46 out of 76 aircraft active. He, however, regretted that majority of them are still not registered in Nigeria despite the law that mandated local registry after 12 months of operations and six months renewal grace.

“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation (NCARs) Part 8.2.1.9 allows foreign aircraft to operate locally for 2-12 months and an initial renewal of another six months. I must say a lot of operators have found a way to go around that requirement by going out and returning, to go through the process again.

“Yes, it is a bit unusual where you have foreign registered aircraft much more than the Nigerian registered in the country, and we try to encourage the foreign-registered to de-register and register here in Nigeria.

“We are getting there but at a very slow rate and maybe they need to see a more stable macroeconomic environment so they can de-register and put in a Nigerian registration. A bit more confidence in the regulatory function will help do that. We try to work with them to see how they can de-register. I’ve seen a couple of requests for that and we are making progress,” Nuhu said.

Charter airline operator and Chairman of West Link airline, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia, had described operations of private jets in commercial services as economic sabotage.

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Mshelia said the NCAA and the Directorate of State Security (DSS) should go after such people for both security and economic infractions that deprive the sector of a mandatory five per cent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC), among others.

Mshelia said even passengers of those illegal operators were endangering themselves, saying if anything happened to them, “the owners of aircraft would leave as the aircraft was not certified for hire and reward and so would not even compensate them or their families.”

“The fact is that the government should be more worried because it is losing a lot of revenues. I pay the five per cent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC), even if I don’t have the cash with me. I owe it and I must pay it and I can’t jump it. But those that are doing these sharp practices are not captured in the NCAA data. So, the NCAA cannot go after them.

“I think the Department of State Security should have intervened because this was purely economic sabotage for them to remain in this business for this long. I felt that if the Director-General of NCAA has full autonomy, then he would do his job without looking at the body language of the minister.”

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