Stakeholders in the Nigerian aviation industry are calling for a public inquiry into the projects initiated by former Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, particularly the Nigeria Air project.
They said there is a need for an independent investigation into the failed national carrier project, Nigeria Air, to examine its conception, process, expenses, and parties involved.
They’ve also called on the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to investigate Ethiopian Airlines’ involvement in the Nigeria Air project, especially regarding the recent public display of a foreign registered aircraft painted as Nigeria Air.
Barely 48 hours after the exit of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, players in the Nigerian aviation industry have called for a public enquiry into some of the projects embarked upon by the former Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, especially the Nigeria Air project.
The stakeholders also asked the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to investigate Ethiopian Airlines to unravel its immediate and remote involvement in last Friday’s display in Abuja, during which a Boeing 737-800 aircraft allegedly owned by Ethiopian Airlines was presented to the public as a Nigeria Air plane.
Urgent need for investigations
Some stakeholders who spoke to Nairametrics said that some of the former Aviation Minister’s last-minute activities should not be allowed to go without investigation.
Prof. Anthony Kila, a Policy Analyst, insisted that it was necessary for the new administration to institute an independent public inquiry on the failed national carrier project; Nigeria Air.
According to him, this should involve the examination, conception, process negotiations, partnerships, expenses and parties involved in the project.
Kila regretted that Nigeria Air generated so much controversy and became a public concern, most especially in the last few weeks of the past administration.
He insisted that the best response the new government could give to this was to establish an independent body to look critically into the project, which some stakeholders claimed gulped about N85.42 billion in eight years. He said:
“Nigeria Air project has generated too much controversy and has now become a source of public concern, rather than the laudable achievement it was planned to be due to the way it was handled with stakeholders alleging a series of malpractices and calling attention to an un-respected court pronouncement.
“The best institutional response to give in this circumstance is for the government to create an independent and authoritative public inquiry that will allow all those who have issues and questions about the Nigeria Air project to table their concerns, give those involved in the project to respond without fear or intimidation and for all interested Nigerians to know what really happened and what to expect from the project.”
Speaking further, he challenged the airline operators and other stakeholders in the sector to find ways of organising themselves into a visible force that would compel the new government to shed light on the Nigeria Air project.
Probing Ethiopian Airways
Also speaking to Nairametrics, the Director of Research at Zenith Travel, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, called on the NCAA to institute a probe panel into Ethiopian Airlines’ involvement in the entire Nigeria Air project.
According to him, last Friday’s display of a foreign registered aircraft by Sirika and Ethiopian Airline was a show of shame, which should not be allowed to scale without investigation.
He explained that the former minister had attempted to arm-twist the NCAA to violate its law by granting an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to the airline when it was still in phase two of the five phases pre-registration exercise.
Note that the five stages an applicant must scale before being granted AOC by NCAA are: Pre-Application Phase, Formal Application Phase; Document Evaluation Phase, Demonstration and Inspection Phase and Certification Phase.
He, however, expressed sadness that the project may have gone with the former administration despite the billions of naira expended on it in the past eight years by the Federal Government.
“I think Nigeria Air is dead and buried. The new administration should just pull out the funds that have been used for that project and most importantly, ask for the record of the disbursed N27 billion given for Covid-19 palliatives. The N22 billion that is outstanding must be accounted for by Sirika.”
What you should know
Public outcry followed last week’s static display of an aircraft painted in Nigeria Air livery but with foreign registration mark belonging to Ethiopian Airlines.
Most of the sector’s professionals described the action as fraudulent and a flagrant disregard to the Nigerian court which had directed all parties involved to stay action on the project pending the outcome of the legal process instituted against it by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON).
There was also an allegation that the aircraft used for the static display by Sirika and Ethiopian Airlines returned to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with paid passengers, which is also against the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs).
But, AON lauded NCAA for not succumbing to pressure to issue an AOC to the airline despite the pressure from Sirika for the regulatory body to violate its regulations.
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