Spat over Leased Aircraft

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Chinedu Eze

Aircraft charter operator, Top Brass Aviation has been battling the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) over an aircraft it leased some years ago and when the lessor went to recover the aircraft because the terms of agreement were not met, the company allegedly resisted the recovery.

But in accordance to the principles of Cape Town Convention, which enables mostly airline operators in developing countries to lease aircraft and which mandates the regulatory authority to recover such aircraft when the terms of lease are breached, the NCAA has to facilitate the lessor to recover its aircraft.

But that action enraged the Managing Director of Top Brass Aviation, Roland Iyayi, who insisted that it was the lessor of the aircraft, Seagold Investment Limited that breached the terms of leasing the equipment.
The aircraft was a Bombardier Dash 8 (Q300).

Iyayi, the Top Brass boss took NCAA to court over the matter, for helping the lessor to recover the aircraft.
But the Director General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman said by reneging the terms of agreement for leasing, some Nigerian airlines have damaged the image of the country in the global aviation market and made it difficult for lessors to lease aircraft to Nigerian operators.

Such bad image, he said, has also affected even the acquisition of spares and made insurance companies to be circumspect about insuring Nigerian airlines aircraft.

It has also contributed in making the global aviation community see Nigeria as a harsh environment for business. This has reflected in the high insurance premium Nigerian airlines pay, which is the highest in West Africa and more than double what is paid in Europe.
Muhtar, noted that by helping the lessors recover their aircraft, the NCAA was merely abiding by the Cape Town Convention protocol, which Nigeria is, signatory to and also giving hope to lessor that they would always recover their aircraft if the airline that leased it defaulted on the terms of leasing.
“The aim of having the Cape Town Convention is to help, especially African airlines to be able to get leases easily and at affordable prices.
“Of course, it came with certain conditions because the people who are going to lease will always need to have some kind of comfort that if there is any default they will be able to recover their mobile equipment, aircraft, engine or anything along that line.
“Before we became signatory to Cape Town Convention, cost of leases were quite high and difficult to come by because of the difficulty experienced by those lessors in getting back their aeroplanes whenever there were defaults from the airlines.

“Of course, Nigeria has signed, we have ratified and we have even started implementing those provisions. The only problems with the implementation which we have been working to try and remove is where the airline which has leased the aircraft will go to court and ask for an ex-parte motion or order to stop the aircraft from either being de-registered or taken out of Nigeria,” Usman said.

He said that NCAA has been working with the Judiciary through the Ministry of Justice to educate the Judiciary on the need to ensure that those Cape Town Convention provisions are maintained.
“As far as we are concerned, our own is to ensure that the airlines adhere to the rules. We help to recover the aircraft where somebody has defaulted in line with the agreement signed and we have done it with one or two airlines.

“We are working very hard with the Judiciary to remove that bottleneck so that more airlines will be able to attract and get leases at affordable prices which will translate even into lower cost to the passenger,” he added.
Reacting to the court case instituted against NCAA by Top Brass boss for allegedly tampering with the aircraft, Usman said the authority would meet the airline in court.

He stressed that NCAA had to assist the lessor in recovering the aircraft because any country that negates the recovery or repossessing principles is blacklisted and airline operators that are registered in that country would not be able to lease aircraft for commercial and even private operation.

So NCAA said it would take cautious steps to respond to allegation of aircraft tampering levelled against it by the owner of Top Brass, Mr. Iyayi.

Usman, who expressed surprise at the allegation against the NCAA, said since the case was in the court of law, he would rather keep silent and wait till it goes through the processes.
“First of all, I am not in the know of any tampering of any aircraft because the company did not put its aircraft under the watch of NCAA and I believe that as a responsible organisaiton, we should not be discussing a case that is before the court.

“I am surprised that Top Brass is being mentioned everywhere. We will respect the court. We will wait until the outcome of the judgment before we will make any pronouncement. However, Nigeria is a signatory to the Cape Town Convention, which helps especially African countries to get access to lease of aircraft.
“In the process, there are procedures, whoever that is leasing, signs an adherence, which allows the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to deregister aircraft when there are defaults,” he also explained.