The Senate has expressed disappointment over the controversies that have trailed the Federal Government’s action of flying an aircraft belonging to Ethiopia Airline into Abuja for the inauguration of a national carrier, Nigeria Air.
This was disclosed by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South), during a Committee meeting with officials of the Ministry of Aviation and other stakeholders in the industry. Olujimi frowned at the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who had unveiled the aircraft on the last day of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Vice Chairman of the Committee, Senator Bala Na’Allah, noted that the 9th Assembly is winding up and they cannot afford to be accused of something they do not support. He claimed that they had been criticised on several occasions about the issue and that Nigerians need to be aware of what actually transpired to avoid further controversies. Members of the Committee also voiced their concerns about unveiling the national carrier during the meeting.
Other people present at the meeting were the; Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, Emmanuel Meribole; the Interim Managing Director, Nigeria Air, Captain Dapo Olumide and heads of aviation agencies.
The Senate Committee stated that the problems include the controversy over the trapped aviation fund, the purchase of fire trucks at very exorbitant costs, and ignoring the concerns raised by unions and Nigerian operators in the sector in preference for Ethiopian Airlines as the preferred bidder. The Committee also noted that the statement made to Nigerians by the immediate past Minister about the aircraft belonging to Nigeria Air and four more being on the way, was simple propaganda designed to instill optimism in Nigerians.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Dr Emmanuel Meribole, noted that the unveiling was done to see the Nigerian logo on an aircraft adding that he was hearing most of the complaints for the first time.
Responding to the Senators, Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Dayo Olumide, explained that the aircraft was a chartered one from Ethiopia for a few days to show what an aircraft in Nigerian flags looks like and that Nigeria Air was launched in 2018.
“It is a pleasure to be here and to finally make our position known where I can clarify all the misconceptions regarding Nigeria Air as it pertains to the technical aspects of it. As you know, this airline was launched in 2018. Several things have transpired since then that have nothing to do with me.
I was invited last February, my mandate is to secure an air operating certificate for the airline not necessarily to operate the airline but to secure a licence to fly and that is entirely my responsibility. I will like to address your question first before I go on. The aircraft that came in and left was a legitimate charter flight. Anyone of us here, if we have a destination wedding in Senegal, we can charter an aircraft. You don’t need to have a licence to do that, you just charter an aircraft, an aircraft you paid for and it will be brought here, take your passengers and off you go. And that is what we did. But in this case, it was to unveil.
Ever since 2018, all you have ever seen about Nigeria Aircraft were pictures, drawings not the real aircraft, and we thought it was time to show what the real aircraft will look like and also to let shareholders see we have institutional investors, so they need to see what the actual aircraft will look like.
So we brought it in here to show them what the aircraft will look like. Then the social media dimension came into it. It is an Ethiopian-registered one. To operate aircraft in Nigeria, they must be Nigerian registered.” Olumide said,