The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has accused the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, of going against court orders to announce the commencement of operations of Nigeria Air.
Sirika had said on Wednesday that the first aircraft to fly on the Nigeria Air platform would arrive on Thursday.
However, the AON said in a statement on Thursday signed by its spokesman, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, that Sirika’s move was not in the overall interest of the country.
The statement said, “We have noted with dismay the comments by the outgoing Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, to the effect that he will commence operations of Nigeria Air before Monday, May 29, 2023. He equally stated that an aircraft in Nigeria Air colours is on its way to Nigeria in less than 24 hours. All of these statements and actions are in flagrant disobedience of the orders of the Federal High Court of Nigeria which halted the said moves by the minister to float the said airline until the determination of the substantive suit brought by AON against it.
“We make bold to respond because of the myriad of inquiries from concerned and patriotic Nigerians and industry stakeholders who have either called or sent messages over the Minister’s comments.
“For the avoidance of doubt, AON welcomes the establishment of more airlines in Nigeria for we believe that the skies are big enough to accommodate all. However, AON is against any contraption that is shadowy and not in the best overall interest of the country.
“We need the outgoing Minister to come forward, defend and counter the very damning submissions in our suit.
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“Again, it is very disturbing that a Minister is desperately hoodwinking the entire nation into accepting a massively flawed process just 72 hours to the end of his 7-year tenure in office as Minister of Aviation, even as the courts have halted him.
“Stakeholders are worried that his actions may create problems for the incoming government of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
“The government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should not be blackmailed into accepting a contraption that would definitely and ultimately hurt the Nigerian economy and destroy millions of existing jobs in favour of one or two individuals and a foreign country by this hurried last-minute desperation.
“The Aviation Minister is aware of the different court orders against him and Nigeria Air. He should be aware that he is courting a charge of contempt of court as he is not above the law and cannot freely disregard the courts.”
The AON noted that it is aware, like the minister and promoters of Nigeria Air, that the process of acquiring Airline Operators Certificate (AOC) for Nigeria Air is only at stage one, contrary to his televised statement that the Nigerian Air AOC process was at the concluding stage five.
“The world is watching the regulator, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on this Nigeria Air and its AOC process.
“Meanwhile, the NG Eagles’ flawed AOC issuance is equally a matter for another day. The government should understand that the actions and pronouncements of this Minister are not only impugning the independence and integrity of the NCAA but also capable of bringing the entire industry into disrepute thereby adversely affecting the ratings of Nigeria’s airlines on the global stage.
“The minister cannot order these certification processes by fiat. Therefore, an aircraft flying into Nigeria and bearing Nigerian colours does not change anything.
“Furthermore, the fact that the Minister has just a few more days left of his time in office, makes it necessary that promoters of the airline, if they exist, other than Sirika, should be talking to Nigerians, telling them what they ought to know and answering relevant questions about their stakes in Nigeria Air.
“Hadi Sirika knows that until the order is vacated, the Ministry of Aviation cannot proceed with any action towards the airline,” the statement added.
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