The Senate Committee on Aviation, yesterday, ordered the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to suspend the process of awarding the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) to a new airline, NG Eagle.
The committee, in a letter signed by its Chairman, Senator Smart Adeyemi, said the order was to enable lawmakers investigate issues surrounding the controversial carrier.
The Senate’s “meddling”, in response to a petition, is coming about a week after their counterpart in the House of Representatives ordered the NCAA to a meeting, and issued a similar directive against AOC.
Recall that the local carrier, an initiative of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), is emerging from the ‘ashes’ of distressed Arik Air, and has acquired at least three of its Boeing 737 airplanes.
One of the aircraft was sighted at Ethiopian Airline’s Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, awaiting rebranding into NG Eagle livery.
The Senate’s intervention was not unconnected to the protest by a section of the unions that had kicked against the move. The Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and National Union of Pensioners (NUP) branch at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) had faulted the rationale of creating a new airline from the assets of Arik Air that is in financial distress.
Adeyemi’s letter to the NCAA stated: “Having carefully considered the submission by the union, the Senate Committee on Aviation in consonance with the House Committee on Aviation, hereby direct you to immediately suspend the issuance of the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) to NG Eagle.
“The essence of this suspension is to enable the committee and relevant authorities carry out a thorough investigation on all allegations leveled by the union in their petition. The committee expects full compliance with this directive until a workable resolution is achieved,” the letter read in part.
Aviation stakeholders have, however, faulted the directive, describing it as the most unfortunate.
President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), a think-tank group of the local sector, Gabriel Olowo, said it is not the responsibility of the National Assembly to direct the NCAA to issue or not to issue an AOC.
“It is established in the International Civil Aviation (ICAO) regulations that no matter how powerful the Ministry is, the political arm of government, it can only wield influence but not dictate to the NCAA,” Olowo said.
He insisted that the criteria of awarding AOCs are the exclusive preserve of the NCAA.
“That is the agency that has the right to issue a licence. The 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 we’ve been addressing over the years in the 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, and so on. Standard ICAO regulation on issuance of AOC should be followed.”
Apparently in agreement with Olowo, Aviation consultant and former Commandant of Lagos Airport, Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu, said the National Assembly cannot legitimately interfere in critical issues concerning the issuance of AOC, citing its strict protocols.
And if they are so inclined, Ojikutu said, the lawmakers should begin by deactivating the NCAA’s oversight functions on AOC and ground handling companies’ charges, and push them 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.
“The present NASS needs to direct their responsibilities towards legislative functions rather than to executive functions. Like someone said, 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. They need to decide on which side of the divide they want to be and move there; not a bird and rat at the same time.”Follow us on social media