The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) said it gives the aircraft marked ‘Nigeria Air’ that landed in Abuja last week a “water salute”, accusing the Ethiopian Airline of flouting Court order and behaving like an irresponsible corporate entity.
Water salute, AON in a press statement signed by its Spokesman, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo is usually used to mark the first flight of an aircraft to an airport.
Still, Okonkwo countered that the aircraft that was used for the static display in Abuja last Friday was not the first flight of Nigeria Air into Abuja.
AON hit in the statement that Ethiopian Airline “has not behaved like a responsible corporate entity. It is not only brazenly disobeying an order of a competent Nigerian court – the Federal High Court of Nigeria – but also allowing itself to be used as part of the grand deception of Nigerians.
Okonkwo said: “Ethiopian Airlines knows that the aircraft it landed in Abuja on Friday, May 26, 2023, does not belong to Nigeria Air and is not registered in Nigeria as required by Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations. The question is: Would Ethiopia allow a Nigerian airline to brazenly flout the orders of an Ethiopian court or violate the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Regulations as it did in Abuja on Friday, May 26? This goes to show that Ethiopia Airline Operators have no iota of respect for our country, our laws, and regulatory agencies. It is our hope that Ethiopia Airlines does not get away with this disrespectful action.
“This is because Nigeria Air has not commenced flight operations as required by law. Nigeria Air has not been issued with an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which is the legal authority for the issuance of such certificate and as such, cannot conduct flight operations. Further to that, the aircraft is an Ethiopian Airline property that, even during the static display in Abuja, operated with an Ethiopian registration number as ET-APL. A further check at Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) will show that the flight entered Nigeria as an ET flight.
“The Air Operators Certificate (AOC) is also a safety certificate by which the NCAA certifies that the holder has demonstrated that it is fit to conduct safe flight operations. To achieve this, a prospective airline is put through a rigorous five-phase certification process before it is granted. Implication of granting an AOC to Nigeria Air without it successfully going through the process is considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as serious infraction, which is also punishable. It is capable of causing Nigeria to be blacklisted by aviation safety agencies like the US FAA and the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).
“Further implications include that airlines of those countries will not come into Nigeria and Nigerian airlines will not be allowed to operate into those countries. It also means that Nigeria will definitely fail the upcoming ICAO audit and by way of further penalty, lose its FAA CAT-1 Certification.
“Nigerian airlines will also not be able to lease aircraft to boost their operations because no lessor will trust the safety certification process of the NCAA.
AON stated that as indigenous operators, the organization is happy and grateful to the NCAA for saving it from the punishment by resisting the pressure from Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika to grant an AOC to Nigeria Air without going through the due process.
“Besides, aviation is an essential sector which is critical to economic development of Nigeria or any country. If tampered with, it will have negative expanded multiplier effect on all aspects of the economy and life of Nigeria. AON, as strong stakeholders, have a national and patriotic duty to guard against such happening. Otherwise, our investments in the aviation sector of Nigeria, running into billions of dollars, would have been jeopardised.
“Hence, we in the AON continue to salute the courage of the NCAA team led by Capt. Musa Nuhu, for insisting that the right things must be done in order to protect the safety and integrity of the Nigerian Aviation industry, which they have nurtured to enviable world standard” said the statement.
AON recalled that the Ministerial Committee on the Establishment of a National Carrier recommended the establishment of a National Carrier that is private sector-driven with minimum government involvement.
Still, it alleged that the recommendation was jettisoned by the Minister who was the person doing everything from designing the logo, unveiling it at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK, establishing the company, providing offices etc, while the so-called private investors are saying and doing nothing.
“As soon as that recommendation was jettisoned every other thing about Nigeria Air was engulfed in secrecy. On further investigation, we discovered some mind burgling dangerous agenda to kill the entire indigenous operators and handover monopoly to Ethiopian Airline in a dubious and fraudulent way against the economic interest of Nigeria, hence our court action supported by strong material evidence.
“For us, it is a patriotic action to save the Nigerian Government, people and economy from exploitation and to also protect the Nigerian aviation sector and our investments”‘ AON maintained.
Okonkwo restated that the AON really cares less about the ownership of Nigeria Air if the intentions are genuine and for the common good with strict compliance with the due process.
“After all, Ethiopian Airline is already operating multiple landing rights in Nigeria, British Airways is owned by IAG, a company registered in Spain but owned by Qatar as the major shareholder. The Canadian government owns less than 7 per cent of Air Canada’s National carrier. Takatso, a Pan-African consortium, recently took over South Africa Airways, e.t.c.
“All we are saying is, LET THE RIGHT THING BE DONE, THE RIGHT WAY, FOR STRICTLY THE INTEREST OF NIGERIA AND HER AVIATION INDUSTRY” AON declared.
Recall that the outgoing Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika tweeted last Friday, announcing the arrival of the Nigeria Air first aircraft at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, referring to the earlier pledge that the Nigeria Air would record the first flight before May 29.