‘Senate’s position on air crash demarkets local aviation’
•NCAA assures safety
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), has faulted the Senate House Committee on Aviation over its claims that financial distress has caused carriers to cut corners, thereby rendering the local airspace unsafe.
The apex regulatory body said although the Senate could have been misquoted; the claims demarket the entire local aviation sector before the international community.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, on Monday, told correspondents that some stakeholders confessed that airlines were cutting corners just to survive the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel business.
Adeyemi said except the Federal Government took an immediate step to properly support the airlines with bailout beyond the N4billion initially proposed and avail foreign exchange among other palliatives, aircraft may start falling off the sky.
But the Director-General (DG) of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, denied that commercial airplanes were unsafe or cutting corners, citing that the guiding rules were sacrosanct.
Nuhu explained that airplanes that were out of service in the course of the COVID-19 lockdown had been grounded.
“Some aircraft have been grounded in Nigeria for months because they are not safe and we have insisted that the operators must fix whatever issue they have before they are authorised to fly.
“The standard as regards airworthiness of airplanes, even I as the DG, does not have the authority to waive anything as long as it is a safety-related issue. All our aircraft flying are safe,” he said.
He said the statement credited to the National Assembly was misquoted. “Somehow, the story was twisted by whomever, for whatever to make a sensational story.
“What this has done is that it casts doubt by the international community on Nigerian civil aviation; it will make it more difficult for our airlines to assess international funds, to have good leasing rates for their aircraft, and their insurance premium may go up.
“Of course, the twisting of the comment has created an impression that our civil aviation is not safe, and I don’t think you want to put your aircraft or money where the system is not safe. It is unfortunate and that is not the state we are in. I can categorically state that all aircraft we are flying in Nigeria are safe and safe to fly. You can quote me on that.”
Aviation security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the Senators’ line of thinking about the local airlines had got more stakeholders worried.
Ojikutu said if the airline operators were cutting corners, the Senate should be more concerned with the quality of oversight from the NCAA, not financial palliatives.
“You give most of us stakeholders the impression that you legislators seem to be taking too many secret lessons on financial palliatives from the airline operators than you need to know from the civil aviation authorities, especially from the NCAA.
“If your concerns are about aircraft crashing, the place to begin is the NCAA, not the budgets, nor the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The Nigerian airlines’ problems are not about COVID-19; their problems began pre-COVID-19 and don’t compare to airlines of other countries. Those are national or flag carriers and ours are not, but private concerns.
“We once gave about five airlines our N200billion at six per cent from the CBN before COVID-19. We got nothing out of it, while we also gave N19.5billion from private banks at 24 per cent to six government aviation agencies. NASS has the records of these from two public hearings. Why are we doing these heartless thoughts on the people of this country? Please Distinguish Senators, stop the preaching of palliatives for the airlines; speak about a safe environment for them,” Ojikutu said.
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