Airline Operators End Two-year Leadership Tussle

•Vow to challenge FG over choice of Ethiopian Air as partner for national carrier

Emameh Gabriel in Abuja

Domestic airline owners, under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) yesterday announced that it has ended the two-year old leadership tussle between its factions to forge a united front to save the industry from the hands of those it described as backdoor businessmen.

The announcement followed the withdrawal of a suit challenging the current leadership of the union headed by the founder of Azman Airline and the President of Azman Group, Dr. Abdulmunaf Yunusa and the Chairman/CEO of Air Peace Airline, Allen Onyema.

This was just as the operators expressed readiness to explore every means available to ensure that the current structure and formation of the nation’s national carrier, Nigerian Air, which it said was, “designed to kill” the country’s aviation industry was stopped.

Addressing journalists at press briefing in Abuja yesterday, Yunusa said the briefing was called to announce to Nigerians and its members at all levels that both factions of the body have agreed to work together for the best interest of the country and to save the industry from collapsing.

He said: “We are to tell you that we have settled our differences and now we have come together to work for the best interest of the sector and the country. We are one family and even at home, we can have differences but from now on, we are together. We will work together for our country.

“We don’t want anything to come and affect our industry and that’s why we are here to assure our members and the entire country that we are together and we don’t have any misunderstanding again.”

On his part, leader of the faction and Chairman, Westlink Airlines, Capt. Ibrahim Kadafir Mshelia, who confirmed the withdrawal of the litigation, said the decision was premised on the spirit of patriotism to save the industry from collapse.

He said: “You will recall that in 2020, we had elections and some section of AON were not satisfied. And I happen to be the leader of that faction that was not satisfied. But over the period, as the case moved on, we realised that we could settle our differences out of court. That’s what we have done.

“I have come to be part of the original AON and there is no division in the industry. On behalf of my team, I recognise the Chairman and President of Azman and the President of Air Peace as the chairman and vice chairman of AON.

“We are now in agreement. The faction that was not happy before, is now very happy with the leadership of the AON. I want to announce to my faction that the disagreement has now been resolved and we are strong together now. We are here to defend the industry.

“We want a national carrier in the right structure that we can call Nigeria, not what somebody will come in and give us an impression that it’s Nigeria, when we know clearly it is not. So, understand where we’re coming from. “We’re not against anybody coming up with a national carrier, but he must be in the right structure. And it must be free and mostly owned by Nigerians. And that way we know for a fact that yes, this airline is a national airline supported 100 per cent.”

Speaking further, he said: “We are here to ensure that the sovereignty of the Nigerian aviation does not depart us. We have withdrawn our case and our lawyers have concluded the process, “

Meanwhile members and leadership of the group who took turn to speak at the briefing in one voice, have vowed to ensure that they fight the newly launched national carrier, believed to be owned by some private investors not to succeed in crashing the aviation sector.

Chairman of West Link Airlines, Chairman United Nigerian Airlines, Allen Oynema and vice president, AON, Chief Obiora Okonkwo, Chairman United Nigerian Airlines, all shed light on the current woes in the industry and expressed fears over the threat posed to the aviation sector by the upcoming Nigerian Air.

On the issues of flight delay at the airport and how to manage such during the rush yuletide period, they said FAAN was responsible for that due to its failure to provide adequate infrastructure and manpower.

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