The current members of the AON have visibly become relics in a new world that boasts of change and transformation and stakeholders are calling for an overhaul of the current membership of AON to include active players in the industry to ensure that they become a serious force in the industry, ANTHONY OMOH writes.
To say the least, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has never been seen as a serious group as their role in the development of aviation in this country has been skewed and checkered at best.
The current roaster of executives of the AON, who boast to be for life leaders of the association has been there since the 90s and have not in any way come out to protect the airlines interest.
What is laughable about the situation is that of this group, most of them do not have any airline operational that they represent, and for some of them, the last time they operated in the airline business was in the 80s
The Chairman of the AON, Dr. Steve Mahonwu was with the now defunct Okada Air which was popular with the Benin route, and was at a point a board member of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
He however still has delusions of grandeur that Okada Air will still return despite the fact that the airline is dead and buried and lost all its fleet during the ban of a particular aircraft type in the country.
Then there is Alhaji Mohammed Tukur, the former Operations head of Chanchangi Airlines before he left and became executive director in Afrijet with Captain Berry Noelle and since the airline also went under he has become a sort of free roller.
He has hinted more than once that he would be leaving the AON as he feels he has overstayed has welcome but despite giving the hint time after time, he is yet to leave and is still the AON assistant scribe.
Then there is Captain Joji, who operates Skypower Aviation, and was once managing director of Nigeria Airways.
These are just some key executives of the AON, and with their combative stand against policies little wonder some of their ideas are as old and extinct as prehistoric reptiles.
It used to be touted around that these figures were just spear heads and that airlines did not want to come out directly to advise government of tell them about their policies and these figure heads were the fearless few that could do it
However, time has shown that this AON come out most times to protect interests that are not even in the interest of airlines which they claim to represent.
Worse of all every year for the past nine years this body keeps saying they will have an election and yet this never holds as they always come back to tell the public that no one is willing to take over from them.
On exploits, they have at one point come out to say that the charges at the MMA2 was high and then come back again to say that there was nothing wrong in the terminal operator doing what they feel is right by them, while the main airlines are still complaining about high charges.
The body AON, of recent boast of people that do not have any airline or stake and so they do not know where the shoe hurts the operators.
Airlines truly need a strong and realistic airline representative body, as put forward by many aviation stakeholders, true stakeholders that are not just professionals but investors in the aviation business.
Captain Edward Boyo who spoke on the need to revitalise the AON recently said that before AON was formed, airlines used to overshadow each other through who had the most connections in Abuja, so long as they could take care of themselves, they didn’t need others.
This went on, all through the time there was little or no regulation and so these airlines did however they pleased.
He however explained that the stakes have changed right now and real aviation professionals and investors, whom the shoe hurts, know that there must be concessions to each other to help them meet their common goal.
He regretted that there was no togetherness in the past but that the AON needs to look inward and be reinvented to meet the needs of the present.
He also said that something was in the offing and soon airlines would be united in Nigeria and this would serve their cause better.
“ AON should organise itself very soon, there should be an election so they would have functional executives in place, executives that are active players only when they have something like that in place that would help them come out and negotiate well with government and enable them key into positive policies like the aircraft acquisition. They should not wait for government to do it all.”
In truth, airlines in the country need the united to be able to grapple with some of the solvable operational challenges that they face every day in a bid to unite the country by rendering transportation.
Airlines like Arik, IRS, Aero and even Overland, Medview, Chanchangi, Dana can come together and put forward suggestions that would change the course of the aviation industry instead of leaving it to the current AON that lack the clout to influence anybody meaningfully.
Captain Ibrahim Mshelia, Managing Director of Mish Aviation once blamed the woes in aviation on them, the professionals stating that they did not come out to give government the right advice and allowed jobbers to do that for them
“We professionals are to blame, I take the blame, I am one of those who should be ashamed of ourselves that we allowed our government to be continued to be fooled for this long, that is why we should stop it, that is why we are standing up and we are talking, if the rest like they can join, if they like they can keep quiet because to them this is absolutely wrong.”
On how AON can work without active members, he said,” These are some of the problems, when you call yourself AON and you are not operating then let me ask you a question, what is the meaning of AON? The operators can send delegates agreed but then if you are here with people who are not operators they are just there saying they are AON then what are we talking about? It is still part of these problems we must all address.”