Revelations continue to emerge as to why the required processes for obtaining the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for the controversial Nigeria Air did not pass stage one.
The latest information gathered that the inability of the purported airline to go beyond the first stage of processing its AOC may not be unconnected with the overbearing attitude of the former minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika on the interim management appointed to help set up the national carrier.
Sources within the sector have tried to largely exonerate the interim Managing Director of the national carrier, Captain Dapo Olumide on the premise that his hands were tied by the minister who obviously did not give him the free hand to follow the due diligence needed to prepare the airline for operations.
According to sources: “It seems like Captain Olumide was not given a freehand to actually do this as immense pressure came from the top to sidestep the processes in a hurry to meet unrealistic deadlines despite professional disagreement.
“The whole AOC process took so long because of the interference from the ministry especially with regards to provision of needed infrastructure to drive the process to new stages.
” Look, the truth is that the AOC process would have been in the bag but for the Ministry which does not provide certain infrastructure for the AOC stage they are in, this slows everything down. So Captain Olumide may know what to do and how, but he does not have a free hand to do what must be done.
“Take for example, the post holders, they were on contracts and the government can only give three months to contractors because they are not employees of the Government, and their time elapsed. Aviation is different from a lot of fields in that everything is time based. If they had had an extension the NCAA would have progressed the AOC to the next stage but changing one post holder is something but changing all means the process has to restart.” the source said.
Olumide before his appointment as the interim MD of the proposed national carrier paraded a stint record both within and outside the country in view of his ability to previously manage Aero Contractors and the Virgin Nigeria successfully.
Prior to his appointment as the interim MD of the national carrier, not many believed the minister would achieve the purpose of floating the national carrier based on what many described as his questionable strategies mostly shrouded in secrecy.
The appointment of Olumide however doused the hitherto criticisms on the excuse that with his position as the MD that he will not settle for less and thus help obtain the required documentation from the NCAA that will make standard take off of the national carrier seamless and acceptable.
Unfortunately, the high hope placed on the Olumide management started dwindling as the former minister took over the total control of the process which many attributed to the total mess and the seeming controversy that has continued to trail the whole process.
Olumide’s involvement in the project began in March 2022 when he was appointed to work on the technical aspects of securing an AOC for the proposed national airline even though prior to then he was neither under the employ of the Nigeria Air project back in 2016 – 2018 when it was set-up, nor the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission/ Bureau of Public Procurement (ICRC/BPP) tender process as he came .
Appearing before the former house or representatives committee on aviation, Olumide had declared to the gathering that his mandate was to ensure the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, get an Air Transport License ( ATL) and an Air Operators Certificate ( AOC) having been following his wealth of experience.
Olumide, according to information gathered successfully secured Nigeria Air its ATL with number NCAA/ATR1/ATL214 for a period of five years from June 3, 2022 to elapse June 2nd, 2027, but unfortunately was yet to get an AOC as he could not go beyond stage one of the five stages because of the minister’s controversy.
According to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority’s rules guiding issuance of AOC, (NCAA) the five step AOC processes include: Phase 1 – Pre-Application Phase; Phase 2 – Formal Application Phase; Phase 3 – Document Evaluation Phase; Phase 4 – Demonstration and Inspection Phase; Phase 5 – Certification Phase.
Equally, the regulatory requirements for an AOC include: the recruitment of post holders (Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, Director of Maintenance and Quality Manager), flight dispatchers, flight crew and the provision of facilities at the airport for an operational control centre for the airline’s operations.
While the minister’s overbearing influence has been fingered to be majorly responsible for the failure to pass through all the stages of obtaining the AOC, the Court Injunction slammed on the government by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) hindered the process of recruitment of critical personnel like flight dispatchers, flight crew and the provision of facilities at the airport for an operational control centre for the airline’s operations.
Many stakeholders therefore, argued that the interim management should not be held responsible for the failure of the former minister to fulfill his promise to float a new national carrier for the country after all the tall promises.
“I also think if not for the court order, Captain Olumide may have gone far with the AOC process. When the AON went to court and got the injunction it further stalled things for Nigeria Air but it is good that Olumide had set up the OCC already”, the source declared.