Nigeria Air’s ambitious plans to establish a national carrier suffered a setback when its first aircraft arrived in Abuja without the necessary air operator’s certificate (AOC). The arrival of the Boeing 737-800, displaying the livery of Nigeria Air, generated both excitement and controversy in the aviation industry. While the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, remained optimistic about the airline’s future, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) stood firm in denying the AOC.
First Visuals of the Upcoming Nigeria Air – an Ethiopian Boeing 737-860 aircraft (ET-APL), rebranded as Nigeria Air , taking a flight from Addis Ababa (ADD) to Abuja Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport (ABV), aimed to fulfill the promise of Outgoing President and Minister. pic.twitter.com/W8FKJPPF8X
— FL360aero (@fl360aero) May 26, 2023
NCAA’s Resolute Stance
The aircraft, previously registered as ET-APL for Ethiopian Airlines, arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on May 26. However, shortly after its arrival, the NCAA denied Nigeria Air the required AOC, prompting the aircraft to return to Ethiopia. Other operators in the country applauded the regulatory authority’s decision, as they had expressed concerns about the lack of due process in granting the certificate, potentially impacting the airline business as a whole. Their primary focus was on adherence to stipulated processes rather than the ownership structure of Nigeria Air.
Nigeria, being Africa’s most populous country, represents a significant market for aviation with numerous active operators and promising growth prospects. Minister Hadi Sirika had initially pledged that Nigeria Air would commence operations before May 29, coinciding with the inauguration of the new administration led by President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu. However, with the denial of the AOC, the future of Nigeria’s national airline remains uncertain.
Despite the setback, Minister Sirika remained resolute and attended the welcoming ceremony for the aircraft. During the event, he emphasized the importance of Nigeria Air in the country’s aviation industry. Nevertheless, the establishment of the airline hinges on the decisions and actions of the newly formed government in the coming weeks.
Ethiopian Airlines accused of corporate irresponsibility by AON
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) voiced its disapproval of Ethiopian Airlines’ involvement, accusing the carrier of corporate irresponsibility and blatantly disregarding a Nigerian court order. AON commended the NCAA for resisting pressure from Minister Sirika to grant Nigeria Air an AOC without following due process, which could have led to Nigeria’s airlines being blacklisted and unable to lease aircraft.
According to AON, Ethiopian Airlines was fully aware that the aircraft did not belong to Nigeria Air and was not registered in Nigeria, as required by Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations. The association raised concerns about Ethiopia’s lack of respect for Nigeria’s laws and regulatory agencies, urging that appropriate action be taken.
Highlighting the critical role of aviation in economic development, the AON emphasized the importance of maintaining proper processes and certifications. Granting an AOC without following the rigorous certification process would be considered a serious infraction by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), potentially resulting in Nigeria’s blacklisting by aviation safety agencies such as the US FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Such repercussions would hinder foreign airlines from operating in Nigeria, and Nigerian airlines would face limitations in their operations and leasing arrangements.
Operators’ Response and Lawsuit
The AON’s legal action against the establishment of Nigeria Air stemmed from concerns about the exploitation of Nigeria’s government, people, and economy, as well as protecting the interests of the indigenous operators and investments in the aviation sector. The association emphasized the need for transparency, compliance with due process, and the promotion of Nigeria’s economic interests.
The aviation industry now awaits the decisions and actions of the Nigerian government to determine the future of Nigeria Air. Stakeholders hope that the process will be conducted in a transparent and lawful manner to safeguard the interests of the country’s aviation sector and ensure sustainable growth.