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Arik Air debts:  Senate directs NCAA to stop issuance of air operators’ certificate

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Taking a cue from the House Committee on Aviation, the Senate Committee on Aviation has also directed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to suspend the ongoing issuance of Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) to NG Eagle Airline.

This is as Aviation Round Table (ART), a body of professionals in the sector, has warned against political interference on purely aviation safety operational matters by the National Assembly.

NG Eagle, which is being promoted by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), it was learnt, is in the fourth stage out of the five phases of AOC acquisition.

Earlier, the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) branch, had petitioned the House Committee on Aviation and urged it to prevail on NCAA not to grant the startup airline the required AOC, which would make it commence scheduled operations.

A letter dated October 11, 2021, from the Senate Committee on Aviation, signed by Sen. Smart Adeyemi, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation and addressed to the Director-General, NCAA, cited by newsmen, said that the directive was necessary following the huge debts of Arik Air to FAAN and other government agencies in the sector.

The letter said that the essence of the suspension order was to enable the committee and other relevant authorities to carry out a thorough investigation on all the allegations levelled by the union in their petition.

The letter maintained that the Senate expected full compliance of this directive until a workable resolution was achieved.

The letter read in part: “The petition categorically stipulated that the application for Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) is unrealistic and unfeasible as the debt profile of Arik Air, which is presently under receivership by AMCON is enormous. Therefore, the notion that AOC be granted to GN Eagle, while it used Arik aircraft, which accounts for part of the assets of Arik Airline will invariably undermine the receivership.

“As a reference point, the union in their petition has cited the Bellview Airline, an instance where huge debts owed to agencies before its transformation to First Nation Airways are yet to be recovered as we speak.”

ART in a statement made available to journalists has expressed dismay at the level of political interference on safety issues by politicians.

The statement signed by Mr Olumide Ohunayo, Assistant Secretary, ART, insisted that the various legislations that established aviation and allied agencies in Nigeria stipulated their roles and areas of competence, adding that the NCAA Act prescribed its role as the apex regulator of activities in the sector.

It emphasised that in order to effectively perform its tasks, the statute empowers the regulator and its Board needed as a matter of urgency to have oversight for optimal performance without compromising its role as enforcer of international Standards and Recommended Practices and other state responsibilities.

It declared that the recent actions of the members of the National Assembly undermined and whittled the powers granted to the NCAA, recalling that there had been similar acts of interference in the past.

It added “…while some of this 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 highlights 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?”

© 2021, maritimemag. All rights reserved.

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