Aviation stakeholders have blamed the House of Representatives’ interference in regulatory affairs of aviation, depicting it as dangerous and against the international civil aviation ethics.
They noted that requesting the presence of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to a meeting and giving orders on Air Operating Certificate (AOC) was unjustified interference with implications for safety.
Last Wednesday, the House of Reps’ Committee on Aviation, presided by Nnolim Nnaji, commanded the NCAA to a meeting and ordered the apex regulator not to issue AOC to the contentious NG Eagle airline.
It was also reported that the local carrier, an initiative of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), is rising from the ‘ashes’ of distressed Arik Air, and has obtained at least three of its Boeing 737 airplanes. A third of the equipment was recently seen at Ethiopian Airlines’ Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, anticipating rebranding into NG Eagle livery.
The Reps’ meddling was connected with the protest by a group of the unions that had kicked against the move. The Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP) branch at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had criticized the idea of creating a new airline from the assets of Arik Air that is in financial distress.
However, the Reps’ interference has drawn the wrath of other stakeholders.
The President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Gabriel Olowo, disclosed that the development reults to interloping.
“It is not the responsibility of the Congress to direct the NCAA to issue or not to issue an AOC. It is established in the International Civil Aviation (ICAO) regulations that no matter how powerful the Ministry is, which is the political arm of government, it can only wield influence but not dictate to the NCAA,” Olowo said.
He emphasized that the standards of awarding AOCs are the exclusive preserve of the NCAA.
“That is the agency that has the right to issue a licence. The NCAA is recognized internationally as an institution to regulate civil aviation. The autonomy of the NCAA is not negotiable. We will be killing the NCAA if we allow such interferences over its activities.
“This is an aspect of unnecessary political interference we’ve been addressing over the years in NCAA autonomy. This will not help the sector. If care is not taken, we will begin to see such interferences on safety issues; which airline is to ground or not to ground despite safety violations, and so on. Standard ICAO regulation on the issuance of AOC should be followed.”
Supporting Olowo’s opinion, an Aviation consultant and former Commandant of Lagos Airport, Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu, stated that the National Assembly could not legitimately meddle in critical issues concerning the issuance of AOC, quoting its strict protocols.
Ojikutu said the lawmakers should start by deactivating NCAA’s oversight functions on AOC and ground handling companies’ charges, and beyond the authority’s responsibilities in the Nig. CARs (Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations), which was signed by the National Assembly in 2006 and reviewed in 2012.
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“The present NASS needs to direct their responsibilities towards legislative functions rather than to executive functions. Like someone said, they could make resolutions that are not binding, but giving directives on the executive functions can create conflicts between them and the executive.
“I think we need to advise NASS members of the aviation committees to have copies of the CAA and Regulations, which they promulgated, read them to know where they have powers in them before they exercise those powers. They need to decide on which side of the divide they want to be and move there; they should not be a bird and rat at the same time.”
Capt. Ado Sanusi, Former Managing Director of Aero Contractors, noted that lawmakers could not order the NCAA, as the regulatory authority is carrying out a responsibility that is globally recognized and domiciled with ICAO.
“But, I have confidence in the Director-General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, because he is experienced and has international exposure. The world is watching us and hoping we won’t take the wrong steps. If the National Assembly dictates who will be given AOC, then over time they will decide the pilots that will be given operating certificates. I am sure the NCAA will not allow it to happen.
“We are trying to come to a reckoning in the aviation industry, but some people are pushing us down. This is not good at all. The action of issuing AOC is guided by international protocol. The era of discriminating who to give AOC is gone. This time, you earn it by merit. Political interference is a no-no for countries that have the United States’ Category 1 status. This will lead to blacklisting Nigeria,” Sanusi said.