Wednesday , 5 October 2022

ART kicks over Reps interference in NG Eagle’s AOC pursuit

  • As NUATE fingers minister over airline’s woes says debt a smokescreen

AVIATION Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) have joined the echoes of criticism being meted on the members of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation led by Honourable Nnolim Nnaji stating that their declaration is tantamount to a breach of NG Eagle’s right.

This is coming even as the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has fingered the minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika in the politics of non-issuance of air operator certificate to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to float NG Eagle Airline alleging that the minister is afraid that the new carrier would upstart his plans on the one he has been trying to establish in the last six years without success.

Both bodies spoke in separate unrelated quarters but all with one intention: to ensure the new airline NG Eagle is treated fairly while going through its process of acquiring an Air Operators Certificate ( AOC). READ MORE: NCAA Autonomy: Mshelia says House in conflict with its created, international laws

The ASRTI in a statement signed and made available by Mr. Olumide Ohunayo frowned at the development from the House of Representatives saying:

“We have observed lately with dismay, the various acts of interference by political actors in purely Aviation safety operational matters.

“The various legislations that established aviation and allied agencies in Nigeria stipulated their roles and areas of competence. The NCAA Act prescribed its role as the prime regulator of activities in the aviation industry in Nigeria.

“The recent actions of the members of the National Assembly undermine and whittle the powers granted to the NCAA.

“There have also been similar acts of interference in the past while some of these undue interference is partly attributable to the absence of governing boards for the agencies, the consequential gap in administration could have emboldened these interferences continually.

“ART frowns and condemns these undue interferences and highlight the safety and credibility issues involved, it is unbelievable that the National Assembly will delve into technical and safety matters like the issuance of Airline Operating Certificate {AOC].”

“NG Eagle’s right will be breached unfairly if its AOC is not released after the company has complied with all mandatory tasks successfully. NCAA will also be in gross violation of these rights. Should the House Committee on Aviation be interested in recouping public funds ( which is the contention in this case ) a resolution could be passed citing the relevant section of the economic regulations of the Nig CARs if applicable . READ MORE: NAAPE to Reps: Do not mess with NCAA’s autonomy, you are not a debt recovery agency

In the reactions of the unions however, the story takes an unexpected twist as NUATE Mr. Aba Ocheme who spoke at a press conference in Lagos while reacting to the melee surrounding the non-issuance of AOC to AMCON,said the matter was beyond Arik’s huge indebtedness stressing that “the real issue is the politics of a new national carrier.”

He called out the Minister of aviation stressing that the there was palpable fear that AMCON had positioned its new airline, NG Eagle, to metamorphose into a national carrier, whereas the minister has been labouring for the past six years to create one which he named Nigeria Air.

“Information available to NUATE however, suggests that the issue of indebtedness of Arik Air to FAAN and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is only a smokescreen.

“It is understood that the real issue is the politics of a new national carrier.

“Indications are that there is the fear on the side of the minister of aviation that AMCON has positioned its new airline, NG Eagle, to metamorphose into a national carrier, whereas the honourable minister has been labouring for the past six years to create one which he has named Nigeria Eagle (Air).

As AMCON and the ministry are both agencies of the federal government, there is clearly no possibility of the two airlines operating side by side as national carriers.

“The fear is that if NG Eagle succeeds, then the Nigeria Eagle (Air) project would be jettisoned. That means one of the airlines must budge. This, we understand, is the crux of the matter,” he said.

Aba earlier put Arik’s total debts at N300 billion “whereas the airline’s assets are worth only about half of its total debts.”

“What this means is that Arik Air is unable to pay its debts. And it cannot under any circumstances. This is a solid fact that cannot be altered by the denial of AOC to NG Eagle,” he said.

“Considering the airline’s low worth compared to its huge debts, liquidation will bring about a chaotic end to Arik Air by which all parties will be losers. This should be avoided by all means,” Aba said.

He said in the event of a “chaotic end to Arik Air by way of liquidation” the workers would be among the “greatest losers” as evident in the “untold hardship that befell ex-workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways after the Airline was unceremoniously liquidated by the Obasanjo regime in 2004.”

He added: “It took an intervening period of twenty years and spanned four governments – the governments of Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari – before the hapless workers began to get some reprieve in terms of their terminal benefits. No one should be so wicked as to wish similar experience for Arik workers.”

He urged the presidency to intervene and “grant AMCON the space to continue to protect the employment of over two thousand employees.”

“In the same way, denial of AOC to NG Eagle will shut out 20, 000 potential jobs for Nigerians, together with the opportunity for reasonable number of Arik staff to migrate to the new Airline. This would be very unfortunate indeed. The pleaded intervention by the presidency will avert such a catastrophe,” he added.

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