Concerns grow as Nigeria Air flies on ‘borrowed wings’
Stakeholders in the aviation sector have expressed concerns over controversies surrounding the acquisition of aircraft used to float the national carrier, Nigeria Air.
BusinessDay’s findings revealed that the Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation had contacted Ethiopian airlines few days ago, to provide an aircraft that would be presented to Nigerians as an aircraft belonging to Nigeria Air.
Ethiopian airline obliged by repainting and rebranding one of its Boeing 737-860 Max aircraft.
Investigations show that the Boeing 737-860 Max has registration Number ET-APL, Mode S Q4005C and serial number: 40965/4075.
It was also revealed that the aircraft is about 11 years old and its first flight was on June 22, 2012 as Ethiopian Airlines aircraft.
The aircraft became Malawi Airlines on February 16, 2014 and was returned to Ethiopian Airlines on August 12, 2015.
BusinessDay’s checks show that the aircraft changed colours but ownership remains that of Ethiopian Airlines.
Alex Nwuba, CEO of Ghana based Smile Aviation and former CEO of Nigerian based Associated Airlines, described the national carrier as “unbudgeted billions spent on frivolities, showcasing, and unveilings’.
“From ribbons to Ethiopian aircraft all in the name of Nigeria Air; from the demolition of offices of staff of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to actual demolition of a few houses. From airport concessions to two funny concessions,” Nwuba said.
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“The establishment of an unseen leasing company to Aerotroprolis even the drawings are yet to be seen. In the end we’re here pockets emptied and hopes dashed.”
John Ojikutu, security expert and former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, also raised concerns on the ownership of the airplane.
“What is the registration of the aircraft that has foreign crew? Sure it is foreign registered, flying from foreign country to Nigeria. Did the aircraft have security clearance or have the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency gotten clearances on the aircraft movement ?
“We really have problems upon problems. In my days in MMA, the crew will not come down until there is a security clearance for them and the aircraft. Remember Amechi aircraft from PH to Akure in 2014? Begin to assess the present situation from there,” Ojikutu said.
Another expert who didn’t want to be named said, “We all know what Nigerians can do, this is more about what they should do. If they have any genuine interest and love for the future of their country and this industry! The registration number is ET-APL. This is an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft previously leased to Malawian Airlines one of ETs other failures.
“It was returned and is in active service with ET. I was not born yesterday and am not going to act dumb to indulge anyone’s antics. I look forward to the day when Nigerian genuinely has an airline which can serve the nations interest and not personal interest. It is far from achieving that in my opinion.”
The Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) had on Thursday described the commencement of Nigeria Air as a flagrant disobedience of the orders of the Federal High Court of Nigeria which halted the said moves by the minister to float the airline until the determination of the substantive suit brought by AON against it.
The AON also alleged that the process of acquiring Airline Operators Certificate(AOC) for Nigeria Air is only at the stage one, contrary to Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation’s televised statement that the Nigerian Air AOC process was at the concluding stage five.