Aviation stakeholders have blamed the House of Representatives’ interference in aviation regulatory affairs, calling it dangerous and a violation of international civil aviation rules.
They said the convening of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to a meeting and issuing orders on the air operator certificate (AOC) constituted undue interference with safety implications.
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives Aviation Committee, chaired by Nnolim Nnaji, ordered the NCAA to meet and ordered the Supreme Regulator not to issue AOCs to controversial airline NG Eagle.
The Guardian had reported that the local carrier, an initiative of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), was raising the âashesâ of distressed Arik Air and had acquired at least three of its Boeing 737s. One-third of the equipment was recently seen at Ethiopian Airlines’ maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, awaiting a rebranding in the NG Eagle livery.
The intervention of the representatives was not unrelated to the protest of a section of the unions which had opposed the movement. The Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Union of Retirees (NUP) branch of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had criticized the rationale for creating a new airline in from the assets of Arik Air which is in financial difficulty.
However, the interference of officials drew the ire of other stakeholders.
Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ASRTI) chair Gabriel Olowo said the development amounted to a reversal.
âIt is not the responsibility of Congress to direct the NCAA to issue or not to issue an AOC. It is established in the regulations of the international civil aviation (ICAO) that, however powerful the department, which is the political arm of the government, it can only exert an influence but not dictate to the NCAA â, a said Olowo.
He insisted that the criteria for awarding AOCs are the exclusive prerogative of the NCAA.
âIt is the agency that has the right to issue a license. The NCAA is internationally recognized as a civil aviation regulatory institution. The autonomy of the NCAA is not negotiable. We will kill the NCAA if we allow such interference in its activities.
âThis is an aspect of unnecessary political interference that we have addressed over the years in the autonomy of the NCAA. It will not help the sector. If we are not careful we will start to see such interference on security matters; which airline should or should not run aground despite the security breaches, and so on. Standard ICAO regulations on issuing AOCs should be followed.
Corroborating the position of Olowo, an aviation consultant and former Lagos Airport Commander, Grp. Captain John Ojikutu, said the National Assembly could not legitimately interfere in critical issues regarding the issuance of the AOC, citing its strict protocols.
Ojikutu said lawmakers should start by disabling NCAA oversight functions on the loads of ground and ground handling companies, and beyond authority responsibilities in Nig. RAC (Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations), which was approved by the National Assembly in 2006 and revised in 2012.
âThe current NASS needs to shift its responsibilities towards legislative rather than executive functions. As someone said, they could make resolutions that are not binding, but giving direction on executive functions can create conflict between them and the executive.
“I think we need to advise the NASS members of the aviation committees to have copies of the CAA and the regulations, which they have promulgated, to read them to find out where they have powers before exercising these. powers. They have to decide which side of the divisions they want to be on and move there; they shouldn’t be a bird and a rat at the same time.
Former Aero Contractors general manager Captain Ado Sanusi said lawmakers could not dictate their rules to the NCAA because the regulator exercises a responsibility that is globally recognized and domiciled with ICAO .
âBut I trust NCAA general manager Captain Musa Nuhu because he’s experienced and has international exposure. The world is watching us and hoping that we will not take a bad step. If the National Assembly dictates who will receive the AOC, then over time it will decide which pilots will receive the operating certificates. I’m sure the NCAA won’t allow that to happen.
âWe’re trying to take stock in the aviation industry, but some people are pushing us down. It is not good at all. The action of issuing the AOC is guided by the international protocol. The era of discrimination to whom to give the AOC is over. This time, you win it on merit. Political interference is a no-no for countries that have the category 1 status of the United States. This will lead to the blacklisting of Nigeria, âsaid Sanusi.