Reacting to a statement credited to the chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, saying that domestic airlines are likely to cut corners in their operations if the condition becomes cumbersome, the operators in a statement signed by its President, Abdumunaf Yunusa said there is no iota of truth in the statement, insisting that Nigerian airlines have not cut corners, do not cut corners and will never cut corners.
In advocating for more bailout funds for airlines, Adeyemi, was reported to have pleaded with the Federal Government to stop the Customs department from re-introducing the payment of duties and VAT on the importation of commercial aircraft, commercial aircraft spares and engines noting that the reintroduction is a flagrant disobedience of the Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari who had previously granted zero duty and zero VAT on the importation of commercial aircraft, aircraft spares and aircraft engines.
He reportedly said that this decision by Customs could make airlines to start cutting corners because of their inability to clear their spare parts.
But the AON insisted that Nigerian airlines are the safest in the world and rather than cut corners, they will shut down operations.
“The attention of AON has been drawn to the reports in certain news media, quoting a Senator, saying that as a result of the financial problems brought to the airlines by the effects of COVID-19 and, as result of lack of adequate government bailouts for the airline, that the airlines had resorted to cutting corners.
“AON wishes to state categorically here that there is no iota of truth in this statement. Nigerian airlines have not cut corners, do not cut corners and will never cut corners. We want to believe that the Distinguished Senator was misunderstood and quoted out of context because there is never any available fact supporting such a conclusion.
“It was equally reported in most media that the senator in asking that Nigerian airlines be supported with adequate bailout funding, warned that if this was not done, that some airlines may resort to cutting corners.
“We wish to state categorically that no Nigerian airline would cut corners under any circumstance. Nigerian airlines will never compromise safety under any circumstance. If the burden of running our business becomes unbearable as a result of the Custom duties and VAT, we would rather shut down and suspend our operations rather than cut corners.
“Again, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA) is alive to its duties and would never allow such to happen. Nigerian airlines, as a result of the stringent safety regime being run by the NCAA, are the safest in the world,” the AON said.
Also reacting to Adeyemi’s statement, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu said all aircraft used by Nigerian airlines are safe and that if they weren’t, they would have been grounded.
Speaking to aviation correspondents, Nuhu said what Adeyemi’s statement has done is that it has cast doubt in the minds of the international community, questioned the competence of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation and what will end up happening is that it will make it more difficult for domestic airlines to assess international funds, to have good lease rate for their aircraft and their insurance premium may go up.
“I can categorically say that our airplanes are safe. The airplanes that are not safe have been grounded. Some aircraft have been grounded in Nigeria for months because they are not safe and we have insisted that the operators must fix whatever issue they have before they are authorised to fly.
“The standard as regards airworthiness of airplanes, even I as the DG I do not have the authority to waive anything as long as it is a safety related issue. All our aircraft flying are safe.
“I believe this statement came supposedly from the National Assembly and I want to believe there was a misquotation. I will leave it like that. Somehow, the story was twisted by whoever, for whatever to make a sensational story.
“What this has done is that it has cast doubt in Nigeria civil aviation with international community and what that will end up doing is that it will make it more difficult for our airlines to assess international funds, to have good lease rate for their aircraft, their insurance premium may go up. Of course, the twisting of the comment has created an impression that Nigeria civil aviation is not safe and I don’t think you want to put your aircraft or money where the system is not safe. It is unfortunate and that is not the state we are in. I can categorically state that all aircraft we are flying in Nigeria are safe and safe to fly. You can quote me on that,” Nuhu said.