The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has described the planned commencement of flight operations by Nigeria Air as flagrant disobedience to the rule of law and an attempt to blackmail to in-coming government.
A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, had on April 15, 2023, issued an order of interim injunction restraining the federal government and other parties from executing the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air.
In a statement signed by its spokesman, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who is also the Managing Director/CEO of United Nigeria Airlines, the domestic carriers said Sirika’s promise to deliver Nigeria Air by May 29, 2023, was a contemptuous action and invitation to anarchy.
“We have noted with dismay the comments by the outgoing Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, to the effect that he will commence operations of Nigeria Air before Monday, May 29, 2023.
“He equally stated that an aircraft in Nigeria Air colours is on its way to Nigeria in less than 24 hours. All of these statements and actions are in flagrant disobedience of the orders of the Federal High Court of Nigeria which halted the said moves by the Minister to float the said airline until the determination of the substantive suit brought by AON against it.
“We make bold to respond because of the myriad of inquiries from concerned and patriotic Nigerians and industry stakeholders who have either called or sent messages over the Minister’s comments.
“For the avoidance of doubt, AON welcomes the establishment of more airlines in Nigeria for we believe that the skies are big enough to accommodate all. However, AON is against any contraption that is shadowy and not in the best overall interest of the country.”
“We need the outgoing minister to come forward, defend and counter the very damning submissions in our suit. Again, it is very disturbing that a Minister is desperately hoodwinking the entire nation into accepting a massively flawed process just 72 hours to the end of his 7-year tenure in office as Minister of Aviation, even as the courts have halted him,” the operators stated.
The statement also observed that stakeholders in the industry were worried that his actions might create problems for the incoming government of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
“The government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should not be blackmailed into accepting a contraption that would definitely and ultimately hurt the Nigerian economy and destroy millions of existing jobs in favour of one or two individuals and a foreign country by this hurried last-minute desperation.
“The Aviation Minister is aware of the different court orders against him and Nigeria Air. He should be aware that he is courting a charge of contempt of court as he is not above the law and cannot freely disregard the courts.
“AON is also aware, like the Minister and promoters of Nigeria Air, that the process of acquiring Airline Operators Certificate(AOC) for Nigeria Air is only at the Stage one, contrary to his televised statement that the Nigerian Air AOC process was at the concluding Stage five,” AON stated.
The body stressed that the world was watching the regulator, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on the Nigeria Air and its AOC process, adding that the NG Eagles’ flawed AOC issuance was equally a matter for another day.
THISDAY learnt that NG Eagle was issued AOC in March this year, almost two years after the aircraft carried out demonstration, which was the last critical condition to qualify for the issuance of AOC. But by the time NG Eagle received the certificate, the aircraft used in the demonstration were allegedly no longer airworthy.
AON added: “The government should understand that the actions and pronouncements of this Minister is not only impugning on the independence and integrity of the NCAA, but also capable of bringing the entire industry into disrepute thereby adversely affecting the ratings of Nigeria’s airlines on the global stage.
“The Minister cannot order these certification processes by fiat. Therefore, an aircraft flying into Nigeria and bearing Nigerian colours does not change anything.
“Furthermore, the fact that the Minister has just a few more days left of his time in office, makes it necessary that promoters of the airline, if they exist, other than Sirika, should be talking to Nigerians, telling them what they ought to know and answering relevant questions about their stakes in Nigeria Air.
“Hadi Sirika knows that until the order is vacated, the Ministry of Aviation cannot proceed with any action towards the airline.”
Reacting to the planned arrival of Nigeria Air aircraft, industry stakeholders expressed disenchantment with the last-minute move, describing it as disingenuous and suspicious.
Aviation analyst and media consultant, Simon Tumba said, “After over seven years of planning and waste of billions of naira, Hadi Sirika is launching his Nigeria Air.
“It is one of the most wasteful ventures ever undertaken in Nigeria’s aviation history. Can NCAA confirm to us which AOC Nigeria Air is using? Has an AOC been issued? When?
“In all honesty is this airline founded on a solid foundation to meet the aspirations and dreams of Nigerians? Or is it just a feat to cover the wasteful and shambolic project of Hadi Sirika? Surely a faulty foundation cannot stand. This is airline business not “jankara” business. This can only happen in a Buhari regime.
“Has the court case been vacated or is it a continuation of the wanton impunity of this notorious government? Amongst all the MDAs in this government, Aviation under Sirika has proven to have engaged in the most scandalous appointments and reorganization ever done by an outgoing government! Surely it will end in shame.”