The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has taken a swipe at Ethiopian Airlines following the dirty roles it played in the controversial arrival of two of its aircraft in Nigeria on Friday, May 26, 2023.
Two aircraft belonging to Ethiopian Airlines which was painted in Nigeria Air colour and landed at Abuja, Nigeria, was controversially presented to Nigerians by the outgoing minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika as those of Nigeria Air.
The minister’s announcement has since generated anger and condemnation among Nigerians as the said aircraft were said to have actually belonged to Ethiopian Airlines but were hurriedly repainted to carry Nigeria Air colour just to deceive Nigerians.
AON in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Professor Obiora Okonkwo has however accused the Ethiopian Airline management of allowing itself to be dragged into the abuse of office by the outgoing minister.
The Nigerian airlines accused Ethiopia of flouting Nigeria’s judiciary system by colluding with the outgoing minister to jettisone a pending court case over the Nigeria Air.
AON declared: “Ethiopian Airline has not behaved like a responsible corporate entity. It is not only brazenly disobeying an order of a competent Nigerian court – the Federal High Court of Nigeria – but also allowing itself to be used as part of the grand deception of Nigerians. “Ethiopian Airlines knows that the aircraft it landed in Abuja on Friday, May 26, 2023, does not belong to Nigeria Air and is not registered in Nigeria as required by Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations. The question is: Would Ethiopia allow a Nigerian airline to brazenly flout the orders of an Ethiopian court or violate the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Regulations as it did in Abuja on Friday, May 26? This goes to show that Ethiopia Airline Operators have no iota of respect for our country, our laws, and regulatory agencies. It is our hope that Ethiopia Airlines does not get away with this disrespectful action.”
While carpeting the minister over his announcement that the two aircraft belonged to Nigeria Air despite a pending court case, the AON said the minister’s position was found to be far from the truth as checks carried out at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) revealed that the aircaft entered Nigeria as an ET flight.
The aircraft that landed at Abuja on Friday, May 26, 2023 and was greeted with a water salute, is usually used to mark the first flight of an aircraft to an airport.
“However, the aircraft that was used for the static display in Abuja on Friday was not the first flight of Nigeria Air into Abuja. This is because Nigeria Air has not commenced flight operations as required by law. “Nigeria Air has not been issued with an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which is the legal authority for the issuance of such certificate and as such, cannot conduct flight operations. Further to that, the aircraft is an Ethiopian Airline property that, even during the static display in Abuja, operated with an Ethiopian registration number as ET-APL.
“The Air Operators Certificate (AOC) is also a safety certificate by which the NCAA certifies that the holder has demonstrated that it is fit to conduct safe flight operations. To achieve this, a prospective airline is put through a rigorous five-phase certification process before it is granted. Implication of granting an AOC to Nigeria Air without it successfully going through the process is considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as serious infraction, which is also punishable. It is capable of causing Nigeria to be blacklisted by aviation safety agencies like the US FAA and the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). Further implications include that airlines of those countries will not come into Nigeria, and Nigerian airlines will not be allowed to operate into those countries.
“It also means that Nigeria will definitely fail the upcoming ICAO audit and, by way of further penalty, lose its FAA CAT-1 Certification. Nigerian airlines will also not be able to lease aircraft to boost their operations because no lessor will trust the safety certification process of the NCAA. As indigenous operators, we are happy and grateful to the NCAA for saving us from this punishment by resisting the pressure from Minister Hadi Sirika to grant an AOC to Nigeria Air without going through the due process. Besides, aviation is an essential sector which is critical to economic development of Nigeria or any country. If tampered with, it will have negative expanded multiplier effect on all aspects of the economy and life of Nigeria. “AON, as strong stakeholders, have a national and patriotic duty to guard against such happening. Otherwise, our investments in the aviation sector of Nigeria, running into billions of dollars, would have been jeopardised. “Hence, we in the AON continue to salute the courage of the NCAA team led by Captain Musa Nuhu, for insisting that the right things must be done in order to protect the safety and integrity of the Nigerian aviation industry, which they have nurtured to enviable world standard”.
On the establishnent of a National Carrier by the committee set up to guide the establishment of the airline, the AON declared:
“That was jettisoned by the Minister who is the person doing everything from designing the logo, unveiling it at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK, establishing the company, providing offices etc, while the so-called private investors are saying and doing nothing. As soon as that recommendation was jettisoned every other thing about Nigeria Air was engulfed in secrecy. On further investigation, we discovered some mind burgling dangerous agenda to kill the entire indigenous operators and handover monopoly to Ethiopian Airline in a dubious and fraudulent way against the economic interest of Nigeria, hence, our court action supported by strong material evidence .
“For us, it is a patriotic action to save the Nigerian Government, people and economy from exploitation and to also protect the Nigerian aviation sector and our investments.Otherwise, AON really cares less about the ownership of Nigeria Air if the intentions are genuine and for the common good with strict compliance with the due process. After all, Ethiopian Airline is already operating multiple landing rights in Nigeria, British Airways is owned by IAG, a company registered in Spain but owned by Qatar as the major shareholder. The Canadian government owns less than 7% of Air Canada’s National carrier. Takatso, a Pan-African consortium, recently took over South Africa Airways, e.t.c. All we are saying is, LET THE RIGHT THING BE DONE, THE RIGHT WAY, FOR STRICTLY THE INTEREST OF NIGERIA AND HER AVIATION INDUSTRY.”