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Senate, stakeholders oppose resumption of flights

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja), Wole Oyebade (Lagos) and Murtala Adewale (Kano)
19 June 2020   |   4:14 am
The Senate yesterday declared that it would be suicidal for the Federal Government to unlock the aviation sector this Sunday.

‘While June 21 date may not be feasible’, FAAN preaches safety measures
The Senate yesterday declared that it would be suicidal for the Federal Government to unlock the aviation sector this Sunday.

The Senator Smart Adeyemi-led Committee on Aviation raised the alarm after an emergency meeting with union leaders, led by the National President of the Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Comrade Ilitrus Ahmadu, in Abuja.

The unionists, who intimated the lawmakers on the inherent dangers of proceeding with the June 21 date, insisted that the bailouts should be made ready for stakeholders before the airspace is reopened, threatening a nationwide strike in the event of failure.

They, therefore, demanded immediate suspension of the decision to reopen the gateways.

Besides, indications have emerged that the resumption of local flights this Sunday would not hold, as findings yesterday showed that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was far from completing its recertification exercise to make a proposal to the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for the reopening of the airspace.

The regulator disclosed that of the 11 airlines that submitted resumption plans for verification, only six had been declared, while others still have work to do.

However, local airlines and allied operators have urged the Federal Government to review the physical distancing rule onboard and deploy technology to save the carriers from further losses.

NCAA spokesperson, Sam Adurogboye, yesterday confirmed that the special committee saddled with the verification exercise was yet to complete its assignment.

He clarified that the June 21 date was set by the PTF for the NCAA to review the industry’s readiness prelude to the reopening of the airspace.

“The June 21 is not the official position for flight resumption,” the image-maker stated.

Also, the Director, Airworthiness Standards in the agency, Ita Awak, hinted at a webinar forum that six of the airlines had crossed the mark from the point of airworthiness.

On the financial health of the airlines, Director, Air Transport Regulation, Group Captain Edem Oyo-Ita (rtd), said only three of them submitted reports, while the regulator still awaits others.

The official added that they were working to confirm the validity status of the planes’ insurance.

The NCAA General Manager, Airline Operators’ Certificate and Surveillance, Godwin Balang, noted that the whole purpose of the pre-resumption exercise was to get everything right.

Commenting, Chairman of Air Peace airlines, Allen Onyema, faulted the directive to airlines to operate between 50 and 70 per cent capacity in consonance with the physical distancing protocol.

He stressed that the order would kill the players faster. The chief executive reasoned that the purchasing power of an average Nigerian was low, giving a scenario where the airlines would need to pass the fares of the middle seats to passengers.

To former Director-General of the NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, a simulation before the real opening of the airports to passenger traffic was necessary.

In a similar vein, air travelers are to be compelled to observe some degrees of unusual control and safety measures at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano, as preparation for domestic flight operations intensifies.

Addressing journalists on post-COVID-19 measures, acting Regional Manager of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria at MAKIA, Alhaji Gambo Aboki, explained that the authority had deployed equipment strategically to check the spread of the novel coronavirus at the gateway.