Reasons behind the delay of issuance of Nigeria Air’s Air Operators Certificate (AOC) have been disclosed by sources close to the management of the prospective airline.
This is just as Dapo Olumide, the interim managing director of the proposed airline, is said to have been appointed solely to process legal documentation and hand the airline over to Ethiopia when done.
According to the source close to the promoters of the airline, Olumide’s involvement in the project began in March 2022 and he was to work on the technical aspects of securing an AOC but was not under the employ of the Nigeria Air project between 2016 and 2018 during the set-up of the airline. The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission/ Bureau of Public Procurement (ICRC/BPP) tender process was also not on ground when he came .
Last week at a Senate Committee probe, Olumide had explained that his mandate was to ensure the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, gets an Air Transport License ( ATL) and an Air Operators Certificate ( AOC) following his wealth of experience.
The source explained that Olumide, who was appointed in March 2022, secured Nigeria Air’s ATL with number NCAA/ATR1/ATL214 for a period of five years from June 3, 2022 to elapse June 2, 2027, however, the airline is yet to get an AOC as the interim Managing Director started the five step process but was stalled on stage one.
The five step AOC processes are Phase 1 – Pre-Application Phase; Phase 2 – Formal Application Phase; Phase 3 – Document Evaluation Phase; Phase 4 – Demonstration and Inspection Phase; Phase 5 – Certification Phase.
Many of the regulatory requirements for an AOC include the recruitment of post holders (Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, Director of Maintenance and Quality Manager), flight dispatchers, flight crew and the provision of facilities at the airport for an operational control centre for the airline’s operations.
However, investigations show that Olumide was not given a freehand to actually do this as immense pressure came from top to sidestep the processes in a hurry to meet unrealistic deadlines despite professional disagreement.
“The whole AOC process took so long because of the interference from the ministry especially with regards to provision of needed infrastructure to drive the process to new stages.
”The truth is that the AOC process would have been in the bag but for the Ministry which does not provide certain infrastructure for the AOC stage they are in, this slowed everything down. So Olumide may know what to do and how, but he does not have a free hand to do what must be done.
“Take for example, the post holders, they were on contracts and the government can only give three months to contractors because they are not employees of the Government, and their time elapsed. Aviation is different from a lot of fields in that everything is time based. If they had had an extension, the NCAA would have progressed the AOC to the next stage but changing all post holders mean the process has to restart.” the source said.
The source also revealed that apart from the Ministry, the Court Injunction by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) in November 2022 also halted the process of recruitment of critical personnel like flight dispatchers, flight crew and the provision of facilities at the airport for an operational control centre for the airline’s operations.
“I also think that if not for the court order, Olumide may have gone far with the AOC process. When the AON went to court and got the injunction it further stalled things for Nigeria Air but it is good that Olumide had set up the OCC already,” the source said.