*Minister allegedly in frantic effort to arrange flight with NG Eagle
*We were prepared before court case, says spokesman
With exactly seven days to the end of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, the well-touted Nigeria Air has failed to fly despite all the promises made by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
As at last Friday, the only office of Nigeria Air located at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja was still closed and no activity was going on there, while a large section of the domestic terminal kept for the planned national carrier at the airport was empty.
Reliable source told THISDAY that the Minister in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines wanted to deploy three aircraft from the renowned airline, painted in Nigeria Air colours but the painting, which was allegedly taking place at the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility of Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa was not going to be completed before the end of May, 2023.
But the Special Assistant to Sirika on Media, Dr. James Odaudu, argued that the court case, which slowed down the processes for the new airline could be settled between the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and the federal government.
According to him, before the court case commenced, the entire process for the new airline was almost completed.
He said: “I don’t want to be quoted on a matter that is in the court of law, but that doesn’t mean there is no enough time for the matter to be settled even in the court.
“Before the court case emerged, things were already on ground for the take-off of the airline and the process was almost concluded on the project. It is not as if anything new is going to start on it.”
However, THISDAY investigation revealed that the Minister was said to have contemplated using NG Eagle airline aircraft, but the aircraft in the fleet of the new airline was originally owned by Arik Air. Even the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) of NG Eagle was obtained in controversial circumstances in March 2023; after Arik Air used its aircraft to carry out the required demonstration flights in 2021, and was refused AOC by NCAA, which means NG Eagle obtained the certification almost two years after the demonstration.
The AOC had date of issue, September 21, 2021, and expiry date of September 20, 2023.
In fact, update from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on April 17, 2023, with number: RGO/SPU/ VOL.3/2023/070 revealed that the current status of the airline is “inactive.”
So, for the past two months since it obtained the AOC, it has not operated, which is against the regulation of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that states that AOC is nullified if an airline that obtains it does not use it after 30 days.
Corporate Affairs records showed that the ownership of NG Eagle was transferred by Kamilu Omokide, the AMCON Receiver Manager in Arik Air and AMCON to Alhaji Abdullahi Ahmed and Mr. Ibrahim Ahmed Mohammed at nil charges, at nil considerations, during the pendency of the suit by Arik Air shareholders- where NG Eagle is defendant on the 20 February 2023. This was a date after the court had reserved judgement in the substantive suit to March 31st, 2023.
Omokide told THISDAY, “We did not sell the company to him (Ahmed). We did not receive regulatory support or regulatory approval (NCAA did not give the new airline AOC) so; we have to divest from NG Eagle. NG Eagle was tabula rasa fit for purpose. It was supposed to be debt free.”
Industry observer monitoring the case said the order of the court effectively put in abeyance all matters of launch and operations of NG Eagle, which surprisingly was issued an AOC dated September 21, 2021, and expires September 20, 2023. That the purported new owners of the NG Eagle with no aircraft has an AOC that has been issued using the financial, staff and other resources of Arik Air, yet the ownership of the company was transferred without any query or sanction by the NCAA.
“Thus, with an AOC expiring in five months without any attempt at commercial service since 2021, speaks to the weakness of compliance in aviation,” the source said.
Besides, the case between AON and Nigeria Air is still in court and has not been vacated so Nigeria Air has no legitimacy yet and NG Eagle which informed sources disclosed could fly on its behalf has controversial AOC.