Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah
Facts have emerged that if the aviation authorities continue to ground Air Nigeria and Dana Air for next five months, the airlines’ over 1200 workers may lose their jobs.
This is because the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) of an airline stand withdrawn if such airline is grounded for six months.
The workers who risk losing their jobs in these two airlines are made up of professionals, including pilots, aeronautical engineers, technicians, dispatchers and others, many of whom have invaluable years of experience.
Dana Air was grounded when its aircraft, flight 0992 crashed in a Lagos suburb on June 3, 2012, killing 153 persons on board and others on ground.
On the other hand, Air Nigeria was grounded on June 22 by the regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for not meeting its contractual obligations, in terms of payment of salary to its personnel.
Air Nigeria has about 700 workers, including those in outstations like pilots, engineers, cabin crew and others. It has workers in all its destinations in the West and Central African sub-region and those in its headquarters in Lagos and other outstations in the country.
Similarly, Dana Air has 540 workers, including those in outstations in Port Harcourt, Abuja, Calabar and Uyo and many of them are languishing in uncertainty, not knowing whether they would ever be allowed to operate or not.
President of Aviation Round Table (ART), Captain Dele Ore, told THISDAY that “when a Nigerian loses his job it affects his immediate family; his children may drop from school; it would affect the way they feed and then beyond the immediate family, it would affect others who are dependants, including nephews, nieces, parents and others.
“The truth is, when you employ one Nigerian you have provided meals for at least six other people because in addition to the person’s immediate family which he has the obligation to take care of, culture imposed on him further obligation of taking care of his relations. So you multiply one job by six to know those who are benefiting from that one job you have provided.”
For Air Nigeria, the hope is becoming stronger that if the conditions set out by NCAA are met the airline, it would start operation soon. Indications show that there are efforts by the airline management to meet the obligations.
The Director General of NCAA, Dr Harold Demuren, had explained in an interview last week that airlines must abide by a given standard for them to continue to operate.
“I want to make this very clear. Airlines should be financially healthy to operate. Please understand this. We are particular about paying salary of staff. And if your purchasing of fuel is on cash and carry basis, then I am a bit worried. Just in case you don’t have money you will not take the necessary fuel. Fuel must be for destination and for alternative destination in case these guys (air traffic controllers) ask you to go to alternate airport if there is bad weather.”
But for Dana Air, many industry experts are aghast about what has almost become a tradition in Nigeria that when an airline is involved in an accident that airline ceases to exist. In other parts of the world, if the airline continues to fulfil its obligation, it would continue to operate.
Aviation resource person and lawyer who wished for anonymity told THISDAY recently that in accordance to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that when an accident happens, it is expected that the airline would have to update the civil aviation body about the operation and the body would now carry out preliminary investigation after which the airline is allowed to operate.
“It is only in Nigeria that airline dies after a crash. It is not supposed to be the case. So the idea is for both the airline and the insurer to know because a crash is always possible. The idea is for the airline to have an idea of what their liability will be. That is the problem of Nigeria. Air France crashed in Brazil and they were still flying. It is this knee jack reaction by people who are incompetent or who don’t know their work.”
The aviation lawyer said such action was an indictment on the regulatory body and the Ministry of Aviation.
“You have a regulator who has been certifying an airline’s aircraft; there is a problem with one. Sometimes your preliminary investigation will show you that it is a systemic problem with that type of aircraft; that is when you ground the fleet. Or you suspect that it may be fuel problem, for example, you then ground the fleet for checks and the airline continues flying.
“If it is a bolt in the engine you repair it and it will continue flying. You do not suspend their licence. It is only in Nigeria that they do that. Suspending the licence is an indictment on the Ministry and the regulator because it means that the regulator has not done its work up to that point. It means that if you have been doing your proper checks and proper monitoring, the accident would not have happened.”
But Captain Dele Ore, expressed a contrary view.
He said that there was hardly any airline that survived major disaster, unless such airline has large aircraft fleet, noting that the airline business is very expensive business.
“If you think that maintenance is expensive, try accident.”