October 10, (THEWILL) – Key players in the Nigerian aviation industry have condemned in totality a recent directive issued to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), not to issue Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to impending carrier, NG Eagle, based on a petition before it.
Last week, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, headed by Mr. Nnolim Nnaji, had ordered NCAA not to issue AOC to NG Eagle based on the petition received from two aviation unions: Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) branch of the National Union of Pensioners (NUP).
Both unions had petitioned the House Committee on Aviation and the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, to stop the issuance of AOC to the airline until all the total debts of Arik Air transforming to Nigeria Eagle are settled.
They warned that if Arik had its way, there would have been a repeated past mistake made when Bellview Air transformed to First Nation and eventually died with the debts.
In his reaction, the former Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, described the pronouncement of the House as a sad development because the award of operating license is a process, which takes cognisance of safety and other critical factors, and therefore, should not be politicised.
Capt Sanusi noted that the National Assembly cannot dictate to the NCAA because the regulatory authority is carrying out a responsibility that is globally acknowledged and domiciled with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Explaining further, the foremost aviator said, “I have the confidence in the Director General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, because he is experienced and has international exposure. The world is watching us and hoping we won’t take the wrong steps. If the National Assembly dictates who should be given AOC, then over time they will decide the pilots that will be given operating certificates. I am sure the NCA will not allow it to happen”.
“We are trying to come to a reckoning in the aviation industry, but some people are pushing us down. This is not good at all. The action of issuing AOC is guided by international protocol. The era of dictating who to give AOC is gone. This time, you earn it by merit. Political interference is a no, no for countries that have the US Category 1 status. This will lead to blacklisting Nigeria”.
Similarly, President of Sabre Network, West Africa, Dr Gbenga Olowo, who described the House of Representatives action as interloping said it was not the responsibility of the National Assembly to direct NCAA to issue or not to issue an AOC.
According to Olowo, it is established in ICAO regulation that no matter how powerful it is, the ministry, which is the political arm of government, can only wield influence, not dictate to the NCAA.
Olowo who is also the President of Aviation Round Table (ART) said the criteria for awarding AOC are under the purview of the NCAA, adding that the regulatory agency is the agency that has the right on who to issue licence to.
He said “NCAA is recognised internationally as an institution to regulate civil aviation. The autonomy of the NCAA is not negotiable. We will be killing the NCAA if we allow such interferences over its activities.”
“This is an aspect of unnecessary political interference that we’ve been addressing over the years on NCAA’s autonomy. This will not help the sector. If care is not taken, we will begin to see such interferences on safety issues; which airline is to ground or not to ground despite Safety violations, etc. The standard ICAO regulation on Issuance of AOC should be followed”, Olowo said.
In his submission, a former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd.) maintained that the National Assembly cannot interfere on critical issues concerning the issuance of AOC, which follows strict regulation.
Ojikutu said he was worried about the positions being taken by the legislators in affairs that are generally executive functions supported with legislation.
“We need to hear the legislators tell us that the NCAA oversight functions on AOC and ground handling companies’ charges are beyond the authority’s responsibilities in the Nig CARs (Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations), which was approved by the National Assembly in 2006 and reviewed in 2012”.
He said that the present NASS needs to direct their responsibilities towards legislative functions rather than to executive functions.
“They could make resolutions, which are not binding but given directives on the executive functions can create conflicts between them and the executive.”
“I think we need to advise the NASS members of the aviation committees to have copies of the CAA and Regulations, which they promulgated, read them to know where they have powers in them before they exercise those powers; can they promulgate a judicial law or Act and begin to exercise the executive powers in the law? They need to decide on which side of the divide they want to be and move there and stop playing the bird and rat at the same time,” Ojikutu said.