Following the controversy generated by the unveiling of Nigeria Air by the outgoing Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika on Friday, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) yesterday hailed the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for refusing to bow to pressure by issuing the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to the airline.
By its action, the AON said the apex Aviation regulatory body saved Nigeria from a backlash that would have followed the flouting of the standard and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) which would include blacklisting of Nigeria by aircraft lessors, among other sanctions.
Spokesman of AON, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, stated this in a statement yesterday against the backdrop of the launch of the national carrier yesterday.
An Ethiopian Airline registered Boeing 737-860 had touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja on Friday afternoon amidst pomp with the Minister expressing fulfillment of delivering an important component of the aviation roadmap.
However, amidst the controversy, the aircraft in question has returned to Ethiopian Airline as shown on flight radar, the global flight tracking website. It left Abuja at 19:05 on Saturday and arrived Addis 01:35.
But AON said the ceremonial Water salute to welcome the Airline was usually used to mark the first flight of an aircraft to an airport.
“However, the aircraft that was used for the static display in Abuja on Friday was not the first flight of Nigeria Air into Abuja. 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.”
It said had NCAA bowed to pressure to grant the AOC without going through the five-stage process, it would have been considered by ICAO “as a serious infraction, which is also punishable.”
“As indigenous operators, we are happy and grateful to the NCAA for saving us from this punishment by resisting the pressure from Minister Hadi Sirika to grant an AOC to Nigeria Air without going through the due process.”
Aviation experts say the return of the aircraft to Addis was an indication that no launching was done.
“Well it reveals the level of ET’s collusion and desperation and does not present them like a brand that cares much for the rule of law or the optics,” said aviation analyst, Babatunde Adeniji.
Head of Press and Public Affairs in the Ministry of Aviation, Mr. Odatayo Oluseyi who was contacted for comment yesterday was yet to respond to our correspondent’s enquiry as of press time.