Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren,
Onwuka Nzeshi, Chinedu Eze and Martha Momoh
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has given domestic airlines a six-month deadline to install safe monitoring device in their aircraft, known as Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) or face sanctions.
The directive came as the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation yesterday summoned the management of four foreign airline operating in Nigeria.
The aviation firms were summoned following allegations that they were barred from landing at the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
The airlines summoned include, Turkish Airline, Ethiopia Airline, Emirates Airline and Asky Airline.
The Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, disclosed this yesterday in Lagos, in an interview with journalists shortly after the presentation of his paper at the ongoing Airbus industry workshop for indigenous airline operators in Lagos.
Demuren said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm of the airlines about the device, saying that all the airlines were willing to install the equipment in their aircraft.
He disclosed that it cost NCAA about $30,000 (about N4.8 million) to acquire and install the equipment at its headquarters in Lagos to monitor the movement and operations of each passenger aircraft in the nation’s airspace.
The Director General admitted that installing the equipment would cost the airlines more, about $60,000 (over N9 million) initial payment but suggested that they could defray the cost of installation by paying at installment to the manufacturers of the equipment.
“I think we are giving them six months to install the gadgets in their airplanes. We need to give them some time. It is not a thing you can do in one day. After that, no aeroplane would operate in the public category carrying passengers for hire and reward will be allowed again in the country. I think it is good to promote safety in the industry.”
He also remarked that the cost of installing the device in the aircraft “is a fraction of the money they will use to buy an airplane. It’s nothing. The system entirely for NCAA cost us about $30,000. For the airlines, we are talking of initial payment of $60,000 and then a yearly payment till they finish paying.”
On the workshop, Demuren commended the aircraft manufacturer for conducting the training for Nigerian airline operators, saying this would further boost safety in the nation’s aviation industry.
Also speaking on the issue, the International Safety Programme Director, Airbus, Mr. Marc Ballion, said the AFIRS would automatically be fixed on all its aircraft from 2015.
He said with this installation, speculations arising from probable causes of aircraft accident would be over, stressing that before the airline could come out with the latest technology; it cost it two years of intensive research.
He said before the latest discovery, the airline was improving in its safety record, maintaining that it would further boost safety in the sector.
Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, issued the summon at a meeting with officials of the Federal Ministry of Aviation.
Onyejeocha explained that the invitation became necessary because of the controversy surrounding the alleged discrimination against the airlines.
She said since there were conflicting claims from both parties in the dispute there was need for the airlines to present their position on the issue.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Ms Anne Ene-Ita, had at the session debunked the allegations of discrimination and insisted that none of the airlines have been restricted from operating from Kano.
She said there were usually procedures to be followed before airlines could land at airports.
According to her, apart from signing the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and the airline’s country of origin the airlines, there were some other procedures which airline ought to follow.
She also said that some airlines withdrew voluntarily from Kano Airport on the grounds that the route was not economically viable.
But Hon. Aliyu Madaki, a lawmaker who brought the allegations before the House equally insisted that the allegations were true.
Madaki also tendered correspondences purportedly between the airlines and the Ministry of Aviation to substantiate his claims.
Ene-Itah however questioned the authenticity of some of the documents.
The House had last week ordered a probe into allegations following a motion sponsored by Hon. Aliyu Madaki, representing Dala Federal Constituency of Kano State.
In the lead debate, Madaki alleged that in spite of the preparedness of the aforementioned airlines to extend their commercial operations to Kano, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah had vehemently refused to grant them permission to land at the Mallam Aminu International Airport, Kano.
Madaki noted that apart from being the first airport built in Nigeria, the Kano Airport has been an important commercial hub in sub-Saharan Africa with a lot of air travellers.
He said that barring these airlines from landing at Kano does not encourage international businessmen and women who desire to invest in the northern part of the country to invest in the Nigerian economy.
He described the policy of the Federal Ministry of Aviation which bars certain airlines from landing at certain airports as discriminatory, adding that there was an urgent need to review it.