Air Peace Airlines has lamented the decision of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to deny its newly acquired Boeing 777-300 aircraft parking space at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. The airline said the action negates ongoing efforts by the Federal Government to boost indigeneous operators’s fleet capacity and create jobs for citizens. The airline also alleged it was a target of a planned sabotage by some highly placed persons who are not comfortable with its pace of growth.
Daily Sun learnt that the latest action of the regulators has forced two expatriate pilots hired to operate and train Nigerian crew on the operation of the B777 aircraft have resigned their appointment and left the country immediately, fearing the action of the regulatory shows their safety in the country could not be guaranteed.
This is coming after what was supposed to be a memorable ceremony at the Lagos airport turned out a sadness for Air Peace, as the Boeing 777-300 aircraft which was scheduled to touch down the MMIA, Lagos, by 3pm from Dallas, the United States, on March 30, was prevented from landing 20 minutes to its arrival by FAAN on alleged “lack of parking space” at the country’s largest airport.
“We got a letter from FAAN 20 minutes into the arrival of the Boeing 777 asking us not to land the aircraft in Lagos,” said an angry Allen Onyema, Chairman/CEO of Air Peace.
“One of these Boeing 777 creates jobs for 1,500 people. It is only in Nigeria that you will make this kind of investment and people will just sit down somewhere and decide to frustrate you. And these are the same people who will turn around to complain that Nigerian airlines don’t have the capacity to purchase the right aircraft for international operations,” he added.
Daily Sun, however, learnt that an official of FAAN assigned to pass the “No Parking Space” message to the Air Peace CEO had passed the message in a very uncivil language, interpreted by Air Peace managment as an ethnic slur.
“Go and park it in Enugu or you can find a space for it in Port Harcourt,”. “We don’t have space in Lagos.” The official was alleged to have informed Air Peace CEO.
However, it took several hours of persuasion before the aircraft was allowed by FAAN to land and was allocated a space at the cargo terminal to park.
When contacted, FAAN spokesperson, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, said she was sure that the MMIA Airport Manager, Mrs. Shin-aba, did not say the airline should take the aircraft to Enugu or Port Harcourt to park. She also denied that FAAN was being antagonistic to the airline, stressing that the agency earns huge revenue from the local carrier and would not have any reason to antagonise it.
Daily Sun learnt that top officials of FAAN had ordered Air Peace not to land the aircraft in Lagos not just because of the absence of parking space, but because the airline had failed to put to use two other Boeing 777 aircraft it acquired and parked at the MMIA Lagos. But the airline’s spokesman, Chris Iwarah, said the agency was aware that the aircraft were being prepared for international operations and were going through the mandatory procedures with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), before being inducted as part of Air Peace fleet so that they would be deployed for international service.