By Chinelo Obogo
National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), has accused the National Assembly of undermining the autonomy of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), saying that its recent directive to suspend the issuance of Air Operators Certificate (AOC) is political interference on safety issues.
Speaking with aviation journalists during a press conference in Lagos, Abednego Galadima, the President of NAAPE, which is the umbrella body of pilots and engineers in the country, said that it is not within the purview of the National Assembly to determine whom the NCAA issues an AOC to.
The House Committee on Aviation led by Nnolim Nnaji had last Wednesday, directed the NCAA not to issue an AOC to Nigeria Eagle Airline after it received a petition from the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) branch of the National Union of Pensioners (NUP) alleging that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) acquired Arik Air’s properties and changed the name to Nigeria Eagle Airline to evade the payment of debts owed to workers and agencies.
The unions also alleged that AMCON changed the livery on Arik aircraft to NG Eagle and stated that they were petitioning the aviation committee to prevent the NCAA from issuing an AOC to NG Eagle so that what happened when the defunct Bellview Airline transformed to First Nation Airline and millions owed by the former to workers and agencies were lost won’t repeat itself. Arik Air has been under the receivership of AMCON since February 2017 and the corporation is also sponsoring NG Eagle Airlines.
But Abednego who was surrounded by executive members of NAAPE including the Arik Air branch chairman of the association, Mudi Muhammed, explained that Section 30 of the Civil Aviation Act 2006 clearly spelt out powers of NCAA and empowers it to function without political interference, insisting that the statement of the House Committee on the issue amouts to political-interference and it’s counterproductive, which falls short of global best practices. He warned that continuous interferences in the affairs of NCAA may lead to the loss of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Category One Status, which Nigeria attained in 2006.
“This has grave consequences on the aviation sector, particularly now that the industry is counting her losses occasioned by the negative impact of Covid-19 and badly need huge investment inflows to recover fully. It is also important to bring to fore that Nigeria will soon be facing International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit and practices like this have the potential to make us underperform. It can also cause us to lose our Category One Status as a nation.
“The contention on whether NCAA should give NG Eagle an AOC or not is very unnecessary and uncalled for. We see it clearly as an attempt to politically influence the NCAA’s decision on what is clearly a technical process, which have outlined requirements and procedures that guide them in determining suitability or otherwise.”
NAAPE insisted that the NG Eagle deserves to be commended for saving thousands of jobs in the sector through its intervention in Arik Air and Aero Contractors and said that it supports the floating of NG Eagle, saying it would further guarantee jobs for its members and create more opportunities for the teeming unemployed pilots and engineers among others. The association urged the Director-General of NCAA Capt. Musa Nuhu, to immediately conclude the process of issuing an AOC to the impending carrier, stressing that information at its disposal indicated that the airline had met all the requirements as stipulated by the regulation.
NAAPE also warned that if the newly approved Condition of Service (CoS) of its members in NCAA are not implemented in the next three weeks, it would not hesitate to embark on an indefinite strike to press home its demand.