The Senate has backed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA ) for grounding the operations of AZMAN airline over improper maintenance of the aircraft in its fleet.
This is just as the NCAA allayed fears of Air travellers over Arik airline and assured them of the airworthiness of the aircraft in the fleet of the Airline.
Giving reasons for the suspension of AZMAN Airline during an interactive session with the Senate Committee on Aviation, the Director General of NCAA, Captain Musa Shuaibu Nuhu said maintenance guidelines in the sector , were not being followed by the airline.
According to him, NCAA had in the early hours of March 16, suspended operations of AZMAN airline for failure to comply with aviation safety guidelines and adherence to maintaince practice of its aircraft.
“We invited their people to come and sit with us , we discussed, we thought we had resolved the issue, but there was a fine against the Airline and the Captain. We did not want to ground them then, and we had to let them go. But on Feb 16 this year, the same aircraft landed in Lagos, the weather was bad and it had a significant tyre failure, and damage to the engine and the fuselage of the aircraft. At that point because of the level of the damage to the aircraft, it now became the responsibility of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB )whose responsibility it is to investigate serious aircraft accident and Incident.
“The airline, keep having the same maintenance issues, and is of concern to me that the aircraft keep having issues. IIt will be irresponsible and criminal negligence on our own part not to take any action. I hate grouding any airline, it is a lot of money for the operator, and it is going to cause a lot of inconvinience for a lot of air travelers, but it will be criminal not to take action. It is not to kill the airline but to work with the airline to see what the problems are and resolve them so that they can become a safe airline where we can recommend people to comfortably go and fly,” Nuhu said.
According to him, the lifting of suspension of the airline would be determined pending the conclusion of a full financial, safety, security, operations and maintenance audit of the airline.
On controversey surrounding construction of two airports in Sagamu and Wasami in Ogun state,
Musa said available records at the disposal of NCAA indicated that approval was given for construction of a cargo airport in Sagamu.
He, however, said he only heard of the approval for an airport for Wasimi, saying there was no documented records available to the NCAA on Wasimi airport.
When asked on airworthiness of Aircraft in the fleet of Arik Airlines, the NCAA boss said, based on checks carried out on them recently, they are airworthy.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Smart Adeyemi, said the decision of NCAA to suspend the operations of AZMAN Airline was tenable given the maintenance and safety issues emanating from the investigation of NCAA.
He said the committee would still write and prevail on Federal Government to see need to provide further bailout fund for the avation sector.