Bureaucracy, shoddy preparation stall Nigeria Air certification in stage one
• Ex-minister pushes back, indicts Reps member over alleged 5% kickback request
• Says only N3b spent by FG, distances self from ‘launch’ mandatory
Besides court order, shoddy preparation by Ministry of Aviation has been fingered for the failure of Nigeria Air to scale the hurdle of Air Operators Certificate (AOC).
The Guardian learnt that the controversial project had only passed stage one of the five-stage mandatory processes before the hurried unveiling by former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, which the National Assembly has, in turn, described as a “fraud” deserving of prosecution.
But in pushback, Sirika said the event in Abuja was not Nigeria Air’s official launch, but a ‘static display’ at the request of Ethiopia Airline, to which he was also invited as a guest.
Sirika, on TV, yesterday, also dismissed fraud claim by the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, saying Nnaji was an embittered party, who was refused a request to own five per cent stake in the national carrier.
He said: “You know, I record all my things anyway, and I have it very clear. What I said to him (Nnaji) in private, I will say now, just to give him some comfort. He (Nnaji) asked me to give him five per cent of Nigeria Air, to carry him and his people along. And I told him in private that the five per cent belongs to the owners, and I believe they will be willing to offer him, if he has the money.
“So, it is not me giving it. I didn’t get involved. It was a bidding process. I am very sure they would have reserved five per cent for him and his people. So, he should approach them and get the five per cent that he needed.
“I want to assure you that at some point, even the five per cent shares owned by the Federal Government will go to the market. So, he should get his money ready and buy for him and his people.
“Let’s be fair, he (Nnaji) did not say other members. He said himself and his people. His people could be his family members; it could be the leadership.”
Sirika added that contrary to the humongous sum credited to the botched national carrier, only N5 billion had been budgeted for the project, and only N3 billion had, thus far, been released.
He also blamed Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), especially the owners of Air Peace and United Nigeria Airline (UNA) for going to the “so-called court” to stall the national project.
It will be recalled that the bid to launch a new national carrier within the lifespan of the last administration reached its climax with the static display of a branded Nigeria Air aircraft in Abuja, contrary to a subsisting court order on status quo ante.
Findings showed that the airline has not scaled the hurdle of AOC at the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Also, the interim managing director of the airline, Capt. Dapo Olumide, was appointed solely to process legal documentation, and when done, to hand over to the Ethiopian stakeholders that own 49 per cent equity.
Last week, at a Senate committee probe, Olumide had explained that his mandate was to ensure the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, got an Air Transport License (ATL) and an Air Operators Certificate (AOC), in line with his wealth of experience.
Olumide, who was appointed in March 2022, got Nigeria Air its ATL with number NCAA/ATR1/ATL214 for a period of five years (ending June 2, 2027).
However, the AOC has been stalled, following “poor preparation” by handlers.
The five-step AOC processes include: the pre-application phase; formal application phase; document evaluation phase; demonstration and inspection phase, and certification phase.
Many of the regulatory requirements for an AOC include the recruitment of post holders (Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, Director of Maintenance and Quality Manager), flight dispatchers, flight crew and the provision of facilities at the airport for an operational control centre for the airline’s operations – all of which Nigeria Air handlers could not provide.
A member of the national carrier project implementation committee explained that the entire AOC process took so long because of “the interference of the minister and the lackadaisical attitude of the ministry, especially, regarding the provision of needed infrastructure to drive the process to new stages”.
She said: “The truth is that the AOC would have been in the bag but for the ministry, which does not provide certain infrastructure for the AOC stages. This slows everything down. So, Olumide may know what to do and how, but he does not have a free hand to do what must be done.
“Take, for example, the post holders whose time elapsed mid-way. They were on contracts and the government could only give three months to contractors because they are not employees of the government. Aviation is different from a lot of fields, because everything is time based.
“If they had had an extension, the NCAA would have progressed to the next stage, but changing one post holder is something, but changing all means the process has to restart.”
She added that the court injunction by AON in November 2022 also halted the process of recruitment of critical personnel, like flight dispatchers, flight crew and the provision of facilities at the airport for an operational control centre for the airline’s operations.
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