Operators fault Nigeria Air’s launch without AOC, registration number
•Group writes EFCC to probe Sirika over project
The last has not been heard of the controversial Nigeria Air launch by the outgoing administration, as fresh facts have shown that the national carrier had not been granted an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for official rollout.
Besides, the aircraft branded ‘Nigeria Air’and deployed for static display during the inauguration, operated with an Ethiopian registration number, ET-APL, instead of Nigeria’s 5N.
Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), yesterday, rued the alleged fraudulent display of a new national carrier, contrary to extant court order and international rules that strictly guide airline operations.
An AOC certificate authorises an operator to carry out specified commercial air transport operations. It is also a safety document by which the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) certifies that the holder has demonstrated that it is fit to conduct safe flight operations.
To achieve this, a prospective airline is put through a rigorous five-phase certification process before it is granted. In the case of Nigeria Air, sources suggest that the NCAA is under pressure to grant the airline an AOC before fulfilling requirements.
Spokesperson for the AON, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, said the implication of granting an AOC to the national carrier without successfully going through the process is considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as a serious infraction, which is punishable.
“It is capable of causing Nigeria to be blacklisted by aviation safety agencies like the United States, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Okonkwo noted: “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.”
Besides, an anti-corruption group, SecureWorld and Liberty Initiative for Peace (SELIP) has written the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the outgoing Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, for allegedly using establishment of the national carrier to outdo the economy.
The petition, which was addressed to the anti-graft agency’s chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, was signed by the organisation’s Executive Director, Mark Adebayo, requested EFCC to investigate Sirika for undertaking a venture “designed to benefit a few individuals and lead to the eventual collapse of aviation, a critical sector of the Nigerian economy.”
The group deplored the unveiling of an aircraft on Friday in Abuja, “purportedly belonging to Nigeria Air, despite an existing court order restraining the minister from taking any action regarding the project.”
It claimed that in a “desperate bid to hoodwink President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and the generality of Nigerians, the minister imported a re-painted aircraft owned by Ethiopian Airlines and passed it off as the maiden flight belonging to Nigeria Air.”
The civil society organisation submitted that the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos and headed by Justice A.L Allagoa, in a suit filed by AON, had granted three separate orders restraining the Federal Government from taking any step about the Nigeria Air project, yet “the minister in a desperate bid to cover up the monumental fraud in the deal elected to flagrantly disobeyed an order of a court of competent jurisdiction and produced a sham called unveiling of Nigeria Air flight last Friday.”