By Chinedu Eze
First Nation Airways which grounded its operations a fortnight ago has resumed operation yesterday when the airline completed the repair of its aircraft, three days longer than it planned to resume due to late clearance of spare parts by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Also, in order to get another airline that grounded its operations about the same period, the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has concluded plans to inaugurate inter-ministerial committee to deliberate on how Aero Contractors could resume operation in the foreseeable future.
In a statement signed by Head of Corporate Affairs of First Nation Airways, Rasheed Yusuff, the airline said: “We are delighted to inform you that our operation is back. Flight commenced on September 18, 2016, with very strong passenger demand despite the break.
“This patronage reinforces the strength of our brand and the quality of our service. We received groundswell of support from the flying public during our maintenance break and this tremendous support has been humbling experience to all of us at First Nation.”
First Nation Airways remarked that since the airline launched its service in 2013, it has built a respectable followership and rated consistently as market leader on safety standard and schedule integrity on the routes served.
“This reputation was reinforced by First Nation’s achievement of IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification (the airline industry global bench mark for world class safety standard) in 2015 within record time of twelve months. The achievement of IOSA certification by First Nation in 12 months of application remains unrivalled in West and Central Africa,” the statement said.
The airline said it was committed to her flight operations and remains bullish about Nigeria’s economic outlook and her operations.
“We are currently working on expanding our fleet as well,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, Sirika has insisted that Aero Contractors must not be allowed to die because it is a great brand, saying government would soon constitute inter-ministerial committee that would include the Ministries of Labour and Productivity, industry stakeholders, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and aviation unions to brainstorm on how the airline would resume operation.
Sirika, who gave this assurance when he met with the aviation unions’ representatives, said as the minister in charge of aviation, he has the responsibility to intervene and ensure one of the foremost airline brands in the aviation sector does not die, and that in trying to resolve the issues, all the parties must be sincere, passionate and that whatever they have to say should be in the interest of the workers and the aviation industry.
Sirika listed the ministries that would constitute the committee to include Ministry of Aviation, which is the host; Ministry of Justice, Finance, Labour and Productivity.
Others are Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the CBN, EFCC, the unions and workers of the embattled airlines.
The minister said he would need the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to set up the committee and that the essence of the inter–ministerial committee was not only to get to the root of the problems of the airline but also to know who is not sincere between the workers represented by the unions and AMCON, which the workers accused of insincerity.
He said the industry has a very serious problem on its hand which it must resolve, adding that the government would not fold its hands and allow Aero Contractors to die, considering the fact that the airline is a brand which started operating in Nigeria since 1959.
Sirika noted that in the interim, he would appeal to the Aero management to re- open its airline’s offices and allow workers to go back to work, hoping that the unions should guarantee that while this was done, the workers on their part would not exhibit any attitude that would make the management feel unsafe while carrying out its work.