The Federal Ministry of Aviation has queried the decision of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to prevent the participation of some licenced Nigerian carriers from the ongoing Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
Sources within the Ministry disclosed that in a memo sent from the Legal Adviser in the Aviation Ministry, Mr S S Liman on behalf of the Permanent Secretary to the Chairman, NAHCON, the Aviation Ministry had insisted that the commission lacked the power to unilaterally exclude a carrier for the Hajj exercise without liaising with appropriate government authorities.
The Ministry specifically queried the decision of NAHCON to exclude Skypower Express Airways from charter operation in the 2019 Hajj and Umrah activities.
The Ministry insisted that Skypower Express as a Nigerian carrier had met all the necessary provisions, rules and regulations of the country and deserved to be allowed to benefit from charters, ad hoc flights, just like Flynas, a charter operator from Saudi Arabia, and any other interested charter operator around the world.
It insisted that all issues of civil aviation regulations and permits in Nigeria was superintendent by the Ministry of Aviation as the aeronautical authority of Nigeria, noting that the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was misrepresented by NAHCON.
Liman in the memo insisted that charter services were not discriminated against by the BASA operations between the two countries, rather, it subjected the same to the approval of the contracting parties’ aeronautical authorities.
The memo added: “The decision whether or not Skypower Express or nay airline operators/companies of Nigeria should or can operate charter flight to Saudi Arabia is not for the commission to take as it is clearly beyond its mandate.
“Section 4 (i) (b) of the commission Act is referred to. That decision can only be made by the aeronautical authority of Nigeria (the Federal Ministry of Transportation).”
When contacted, Capt. Muhammed Joji, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Skypower Express Airways, confirmed to aviation correspondents that NAHCON was engaging in economic sabotage by giving preferences to foreign airlines in the airlift of pilgrims ahead of Nigerian carriers.
Joji alleged that NAHCON had done the same thing to Med-View Airlines when it allotted its slot to airlift pilgrims from the Holy Land to a foreign carrier, Flynas, a Saudi based airline.
He, however, said the Federal Ministry of Aviation has waded into the matter to allow the airline participate in the Hajj charter operation to Saudi Arabia.