Stakeholders kick over Reps’ meddling in NCAA, NG Eagle affairs
Aviation stakeholders have faulted the House of Representatives’ meddling in regulatory affairs of aviation, describing it as dangerous and a violation of international civil aviation rules.
They said summoning the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to a meeting and issuing orders on Air Operating Certificate (AOC) was undue interference with implications for safety.
Last Wednesday, the House of Reps’ Committee on Aviation, chaired by Nnolim Nnaji, ordered the NCAA to a meeting and directed the apex regulator not to issue AOC to the controversial NG Eagle airline.
The Guardian had reported that the local carrier, an initiative of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), is emerging from the ‘ashes’ of distressed Arik Air, and has acquired at least three of its Boeing 737 airplanes. A third of the equipment was recently sighted at Ethiopian Airlines’ Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, awaiting rebranding into NG Eagle livery.
The Reps’ intervention was not unconnected with the protest by a section of the unions that had kicked against the move. The Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP) branch at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had faulted the rationale of creating a new airline from the assets of Arik Air that is in financial distress.
However, the Reps’ meddlesomeness has drawn the ire of other stakeholders.
The President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Gabriel Olowo, said the development amounts to interloping.
“It is not the responsibility of the Congress to direct NCAA to issue or not to issue an AOC. It is established in the International Civil Aviation (ICAO) regulations that no matter how powerful the Ministry is, which is the political arm of government, it can only wield influence but not dictate to NCAA,” Olowo said.
He insisted that the criteria of awarding AOCs are the exclusive preserve of NCAA.
“That is the agency that has the right on who to issue licence. NCAA is recognised internationally as an institution to regulate civil aviation. The autonomy of the NCAA is not negotiable. We will be killing NCAA if we allow such interferences over its activities.
“This is an aspect of unnecessary political interference we’ve been addressing over the years in NCAA autonomy. This will not help the sector. If care is not taken, we will begin to see such interferences on safety issues; which airline is to ground or not to ground despite safety violations, and so on. Standard ICAO regulation on the issuance of AOC should be followed.”
Corroborating Olowo’s stance, an Aviation consultant and former Commandant of Lagos Airport, Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu, said the National Assembly could not legitimately interfere in critical issues concerning the issuance of AOC, citing its strict protocols.
Ojikutu said the lawmakers should begin by deactivating NCAA’s oversight functions on AOC and ground handling companies’ charges, and beyond the authority’s responsibilities in the Nig. CARs (Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations), which was approved by the National Assembly in 2006 and reviewed in 2012.
“The present NASS needs to direct their responsibilities towards legislative functions than to executive functions. Like someone said, they could make resolutions that are not binding, but giving directives on the executive functions can create conflicts between them and the executive.
“I think we need to advise NASS members of the aviation committees to have copies of the CAA and Regulations, which they promulgated, read them to know where they have powers in them before they exercise those powers. They need to decide on which side of the divides they want to be and move there; they should be not a bird and rat at the same time.”
Former Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi, said lawmakers could not dictate to NCAA, as the regulatory authority is carrying out a responsibility that is globally acknowledged and domiciled with ICAO.
“But, I have the confidence in the Director-General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, because he is experienced and has international exposure. The world is watching us and hoping we won’t take the wrong steps. If the National Assembly dictates who will be given AOC, then over time they will decide the pilots that will be given operating certificates. I am sure NCAA will not allow it to happen.
“We are trying to come to a reckoning in the aviation industry, but some people are pushing us down. This is not good at all. The action of issuing AOC is guided by international protocol. The era of discriminating who to give AOC is gone. This time, you earn it by merit. Political interference is a no-no for countries that have the United States’ Category 1 status. This will lead to blacklisting Nigeria,” Sanusi said.