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Pending NG Eagle AOC Issuance: Senate Makes U-Turn, Apologises For Interfering In NCAA Duties

In what seemed like a twist in its earlier stance, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Wednesday warned against what it called political interference in the duties of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), while at the same time apologising for interfering in the processes of the pending issuance of Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for NG Eagle.

The new airline, which already has some aircraft on ground and ready to commence operations soon as the AOC is issued by the authorities is a new entity, which the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) wants to use to warehouse all its aviation portfolio. We gathered that all is ready for the new entrant to commence flight operations but is held down by the delay by the aviation authorities in the country to issue NG Eagle the AOC.

Mr Jude Nwauzor, Head, Corporate Communications Department of AMCON refused to be dragged into the discussion between the Senate and aviation authorities in the country. He told our correspondent that he was sure the Senate and the NCAA would resolve the matter amicably to enable NG Eagle to receive the much awaited AOC.

Sen. Ibn Na’Allah, a member of the Senate Committee on Aviation said in Abuja that the committee was misinformed on its directive to the NCAA to suspend the issuance of Air Operators’ Certificate to NG Eagle Airlines. He stated this in Abuja during the 50th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

Na’Allah specifically said that the committee was misled on the controversial issue of NG Eagle AOC and apologised to Nigerians. Also, he charged NCAA to go ahead with its duties and perform its statutory functions of the industry as the regulators without interference. According to him, “The Senate does not wish to interfere in the statutory functions of NCAA.” The statement however received a rapturous applause from the participants.

It would be recalled that the Senate Committee in a letter signed by its Chairman, Sen. Smart Adeyemi had last week, directed NCAA to suspend the ongoing issuance of AOC to NG Eagle Airline. The letter dated October 11, 2021, and addressed to the Director-General, NCAA, said that the directive was necessary following the huge debts of Arik Air to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other government agencies in the sector.

But the directive was condemned by stakeholders and associations in the sector who insisted that it was tantamount to political interference on the statutory functions of NCAA by the Senate. For instance, Aviation Round Table (ART) in a statement expressed dismay at the level of political interference on safety issues by politicians.

The statement signed by Dr. Gbenga Olowo, President, 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 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.”

Also speaking at the function, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) promised that the aeronautical allowances of workers of the agency would be enhanced to reflect the economic situation in the country.

Akinkoutu also expressed worry over the death rate among Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) in the last few years, saying that the management was alive to its responsibility in areas of workers welfare.

Besides, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, the Managing Director FAAN in his goodwill message, acknowledged the contributions of ATCs to air safety in the country and urged them to continue to put in their best for the safety of the industry. Earlier, Mr. Abayomi Agoro, President, NATCA, expressed delight at the gradually return of aviation to pre-Covid-19 level. Agoro called on the government to reciprocate the good gestures and sacrifices made by the service providers and safety personnel in the aviation industry by looking into the various challenges in the industry with a view to finding lasting solutions to them.

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