As workers occupy Aero office NCAA clarifies suspension of operations by airlines
Chinedu Eze
First Nation Airways has reacted to the report that it has stopped operations, explaining that it is currently undergoing maintenance on its A319 fleet.

The airland said the maintenance exercise would be completed by mid September.
In a statement signed by the airline’s commercial manager, Sarah Awogbade, the airland said the airline planned this maintenance action well ahead and it would resume operation later in the month.

“This will ensure that passengers continue to enjoy safe and reliable service that the airline is reputed for. Current foreign exchange constraint, coupled with over 70 per cent devaluation of the naira, partly contributed in no small measure to this development. The airline’s plan remains on track to reinstating service as advised herein,” the airline said.
The airline said it is an International Airlines Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certified airline and operates a fleet of Airbus A319.

“The airline is aware of a press release by NCAA and the authority was formally informed by ourselves. At First Nation, safety is our priority and we look forward to reinstating service shortly upon completion of current maintenance upgrade,” the airline said.

Meanwhile, in reaction to the suspension of scheduled operations by Aero Contractors, workers comprising of the Air Traffic Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) on yesterday took over the head office of the airline at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) as early as 6a.m.

President of ATSSSAN, Benjamin Okewu, revealed that the take over of the airline followed the indefinite leave given to the over 1,400 workers.
The workers led by union leaders were seen in front of the office singing solidarity songs while others were also singing Christian songs asking God to lead the workers in pursuing this case.
Okewu said what Aero management has just done by locking out the workers was shocking, adding that negotiation was still ongoing when Aero sent workers on indefinite leave.

He stated that some of the workers who were on night duty were locked in, pointing to the chairman of  the union  in Aero  Contractors and others workers, who were watching  event from the windows because they were locked in.
He stated that workers decided to take over the airline because the management of the airline sent workers on indefinite leave without paying them their salaries and other entitlements.

The unions, Okewu said would not be taken lightly what Aero’s management has done, adding that under the labour law the company is bound to pay workers their entitlements.
The ATSSAN boss added that the unions were ready for negotiation but that if Aero’s management refuses to talk to aviation unions, the airline’s office will remain shut.

Also speaking, the Assistant General Secretary, NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, alleged that Aero’s management locked in workers that performed night duty and locked out other workers that had reported for duty.

He remarked that what Aero has done was a violation of workers’ rights, adding that the two parties started discussing following attempt by Aero to declare 457 workers redundant, an action he said the unions rejected.

 However, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has dismissed the claims that some domestic airlines are winding down their operations, clarifying that Aero Contractors and First Nation Airways have suspended scheduled services, not stopped operations.

NCAA said in a statement signed by its Director-General, Capt. Muhtar Usman, that contrary to the statement making the rounds that the airlines had stopped operation, he said they had merely suspended their operations temporarily to enable them undertake certain operational overhaul and strengthen their overall operational outlay.

 “One of the airlines, Aero Contractors Limited, at present has only one serviceable aircraft. This is in contravention to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARS), which stipulates that no airline operator shall carry out schedule commercial operation with only one aircraft. The minimum acceptable number is three aircraft.

 “In other words, any airline with one aircraft is in contravention of the authority’s regulations therefore cannot be adjudged to be capable of providing safe operation. The only option available is to suspend your operations temporarily while other aircraft arrive in due course,” the Director-General said.

He noted that NCAA’s regulations provides a window for such operator to embark on non-scheduled operations in the interim.
The First Nation Airlines on its part is in the middle of an Engine Replacement Programme for one of its aircraft. Another aircraft is due for mandatory maintenance as its allowable by the regulatory authority.

“In these circumstances, these airlines clearly cannot continue to undertake scheduled operations, hence the inevitable recourse to self-regulatory suspension.

 “NCAA wishes to reiterate that on no account will it compromise safety and security of airline operations in the airspace,” the authority said.

 It noted that every facet of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARS) and Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) must be adhered to with due diligence, adding that everything has been put in place to continue to ensure compliance.