The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has begun an investigation into the reason why an aircraft belonging to a British company was operating commercial flights into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The aircraft, a legacy 600 with registration G-PRFX, was impounded by the Federal Government for flouting the country’s ban on airspace amid COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika during Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, on Monday, said the pilot of the aircraft will be subjected to 14 days of quarantine.
He also disclosed that the company operating the aircraft is based in Westminister in the United Kingdom.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has stated that the Coronavirus pandemic poses a threat that could see over 100,000 jobs lost in the aviation sector.
Mr Sirika noted this on Wednesday at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He stated that the aviation sector has been dealt a severe blow by the pandemic, noting that airlines have lost nearly N17 billion monthly since their operations were grounded, as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
“We are in very difficult moments like everyone else. All of this started because someone travelled and unfortunately came back home with it and the consequence is what we’ve been going through.
“We are the worst hit, than any other sector. Some N17 billion monthly is being lost by the airlines, thanks to COVID-19,” the minister said.
Speaking further, Sirika noted that the sector is highly regulated and very coordinated and has set standards that must be followed at all times, regardless, because it speaks to safety.
This, according to him, would mean that “we will not be able to open up after closing for several weeks and perhaps for some months”.
“There are safety issues and concerns. Those airplanes have been kept and when we are going to bring them back into service, we will have to ensure that they are airworthy and that they can make those flights safely,” he added.
“So also, for the flight crew, they have certain standards they must conform with. They have licencing issues which will fall due for recurrency to be done within this period, so what do you do with them.
“Certainly they won’t just pick up their bags and continue where they left. They must conform to those standards and ensure that they are safe to operate both in terms of their health and their proficiency to be able to conduct a very safe flight”.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, says the ministry has denied the flight requests of several governors, since the closure of the airports and the lockdown order by President Muhammadu Buhari as a result of the COVID-19.
He said this on Tuesday during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, while responding to questions about some ongoing flights.
The minister also stressed that governors are not exempt from the lockdown and no-flight orders.
According to him, 98% of any ongoing flights, are either essential flights relating to the COVID-19, or repatriation requests.
“Every single flight that you would see, every single flight that we would approve would be an essential flight and 98% of them would be connected to COVID-19,” he said.
“A few others, maybe 1% might be either a repatriation request from a diplomatic community which must go through foreign affairs or it might be repatriation due to illness of another kind.
“And those repatriations will also need the stamp of a teaching hospital.
“There is no exception to governors. I had denied several of such flights, including two governors from south-south and two from the south east and by the way, three of them are members of the APC and I think one is from north-central.
“Once you see a flight approved, it is diligently done and it must be essential, COVID-19-related or some other flights like essential cargo that would bring in medicines or equipment or something related to our well being like food,” Sirika added.
Airports in Nigeria will not be reopened on April 23rd as earlier scheduled. Instead, they will remain shut for two more weeks, a statement from the Ministry of Aviation said on Monday.
“As a result of the extension on lockdown by Mr President, it is no longer possible for us to open our airspace and airports for normal operations by the 23rd April 2020,” the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was quoted as saying in a statement by the Director of Public Affairs in the ministry, James Odaudu.
President Buhari had on Monday, April 13 extended a lockdown in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital territory Abuja by two weeks.
Ahead of the lockdown, the international airports in the country had been shut as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Despite pushing back the reopening of the airports in view of the lockdown extension, the aviation minister said the decision is subject to review as appropriate.
The minister appealed to air travellers and all stakeholders in the aviation industry to see the current situation as sacrifices necessary to safeguard the health and well-being of the people, with the hope that the pandemic will be short-lived.
Since Nigeria recorded its first COVID-19 case on February, infections in the country have risen to 627 with a record 86 cases confirmed on April 19. A total of 21 people have lost their lives while 170 people have recovered from the virus.
The pandemic has disrupted daily life with schools across the countries shut, lockdowns and movement restrictions in several states as the government races against time to flatten the curve.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has faulted the arrest of two pilots of Caverton Helicopters by the Rivers State Government.
Mr Sirika who was speaking during the Presidential Taskforce briefing on COVID-19 on Wednesday, explained that it was wrong for the state government to have carried out the arrests, within Federal Government-owned properties without clearance from federal authorities.
“Civil Aviation is on exclusive list. So no other person but the Federal Government has authority to legislate upon. So also, the Nigeria Airforce is on exclusive list. There is no other person but the Federal government that has the legal right to legislate upon.
“So the Air force officer who jumped the Commander in Chief and ignored, who also jumped the Chief of Defence Staff and ignored, as well as ignored the Chief of Air Staff, to call a governor to come into a property of the Federal Government to make an arrest has exhibited dangerous ignorance and gross incompetence”.
“The police that also followed the governor to the place to make an arrest have also exhibited dangerous ignorance from our perspective in civil aviation,” Mr Sirika said.
The pilots were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly violating the executive order issued by the Rivers State Governor aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus in the state.
But the Aviation Minister maintained that their operation was indeed approved by the Federal Government as it was in line with national interest.
“Whether we gave the approval for the flight, yes we did and we did in national interest.
“All of those flights are for the purposes of improving the national revenue to which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary.
“At a time when oil has gone below $30, and the cost of production is $30, in the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari, he thought that this be allowed even in this national pandemic, so that the nation will not be crippled.
“Efforts are on to get the pilots back in national interest,” added.
Some Nigerian Ministers were at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport on Tuesday to supervise the process and screening of passengers coming into the country in order to prevent Coronavirus spread.
They include the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora; and Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has reacted to the diversion and outright cancellation of flights at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
A statement by the Director of Public Affairs, James Odaudu, on Thursday said the minister noted with great concern the experiences of air travellers to and from the airport Lagos, as a result of highly inclement weather conditions.
Sirika, however, gave the assurance that authorities at the airport were in the process of replacing the old Category 2 Instrument Landing Systems with the newly procured Category 3 system that allows for the lowest visibility landing.
He, however, regretted that there was a malfunctioning of certain components, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult.
“The procurement of the Category 3 Instrument landing system is in pursuance of the desire of the Federal Government to ensure the safety of air passengers by ensuring that airplanes can land with almost zero visibility.
“We wish to assure the public and the airlines, that efforts are on to return the system to full working condition and that normalcy of operations will be re-established in due course,” the minister said.
On the diversion of incoming international flights to neighbouring countries, he stated that the decisions were purely those of the airlines which the government has no control over.
According to Sirika, such flights could and should have been rerouted to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja which is shorter or equidistant from Lagos to the foreign airports to which some of the flights have been diverted.
He disclosed that in recognition of Abuja as an alternate airport, Qatar airlines has applied to divert its flights there and the request was immediately approved.
“It is left to be seen why some others decided to divert to another country,” the minister wondered.
He added, “We wish to use this medium to assure the general public that the comfort, safety and, security of the flying populace remain the central focus of this administration and that no effort would be spared in ensuring this.”
All things being equal, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu should be completed before easter 2020.
That’s according to the minister of aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika who was accompanied by the Deputy Governor of Enugu state on an inspection visit to see the level of work done at the airport terminals and runway.
Mr Sirika listed installation of landing system, taxi and airfield lightings as some of the equipment to be delivered within the timeline, for 24-hour operations at the airport.
The ongoing rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, will be completed and the airport reopened before the Easter deadline, the Minister of Aviation assured.
He said the contractor, PW, had been urged to ensure that he delivered the best of jobs in order to ensure that what happened to the runway, which failed after six years, did not repeat itself.
The minister further stated that apart from the runway and terminal building, where work is also ongoing, critical equipment such as Instrument Landing Systems ( ILS), Air Field Lighting (AFL), approach lights, taxi lights, aerodrome markings, and other facilities would be completed before the reopening date.
The Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, has warned foreign airline operators to learn from the experiences of Turkish Airlines and stop treating Nigerian travellers with disdain.
Mr Sirika gave the warning on Saturday in a statement signed by the Director of Public Affairs in the ministry, Mr James Odaudu.
The Minister, while reacting to the threat meted out to Turkish Airlines by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), declared that no foreign airlines will be tolerated if they fail to give Nigerian travellers better flying experience.
“No foreign airline operator would henceforth be allowed to treat Nigerian travellers with disdain, according to the Minister, warning the others to take a cue from the Turkish airline’s experience.
“Sirika has also promised Nigerians better flying experiences as the nation’s aviation industry is set to undergo major developments in the coming years, with the implementation of the stakeholder-developed roadmap.”
Mr Sirika affirmed that Turkish airlines had been notorious for their ‘shabby’ treatment of Nigerian travellers, and had the warning not issued, the operators won’t have flown into Abuja with a bigger aircraft.
“Following the threat by the nation’s aviation regulators to ban its operations in Nigeria, Turkish Airlines last night flew into Abuja with a bigger aircraft A330 as against the usual smaller B737.
“Officials of the airline, alarmed by the prospect of losing their Nigerian market, had rushed into a meeting with the Nigerian authorities to pledge total commitment and compliance with the conditions given to them in order to continue their operations in the Country.
“Turkish Airlines have been notorious for their shabby treatment of Nigerian travellers over time, especially when they have to arrive their destinations without their checked-in luggage. This has always given rise to security issues at the airports with protests by affected passengers,” he stressed.
However, he stated that the airline has now shown commitment to improving its treatment of Nigerian travellers by operating into the Nation’s capital with a bigger and more comfortable aircraft.
Reacting to the development, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika described it as commendable, saying that the situation did not need to arise in the first place, with the Airline waiting for the strong-arm handling before doing the right thing.
Nigeria has been re-elected as a Part-II member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council, for a new three-year term.
The Federal Government disclosed this in a statement on Saturday by Mr James Odaudu, the Director of Public Affairs at the Federal Ministry of Aviation.
According to the statement, Nigeria garnered 151 votes out of the 193-member states, 18 more than it did in 2016.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, in his reaction said the continued success and recognition of the country in all issues relating to the world aviation governing body only goes to show that Nigeria is on course in its transformation agenda for the aviation sector.
He noted that the re-election of Nigeria into the ICAO Council would further spur it to push for the attainment of the ideals and objectives of the organisation, with a stronger commitment to the implementation of the Aviation Sector Development Roadmap of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Also reacting to the re-election, the Country Representative on the ICAO Council, Captain Nuhu Musa, described it as a momentous occasion for the country.
The feat, according to him, shows the growing influence and popularity of Nigeria within the global aviation industry.
The ICAO is a specialised agency of the United Nations which changes the principles and techniques of international air navigation, as well as fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
The organisation congratulated Nigeria and other countries elected into the council in the tweet below:
We would also like to congratulate the following States for their election to the Council under Part 2: 🇦🇷 Argentina 🇨🇴 Colombia 🇪🇬 Egypt 🇫🇮 Finland 🇮🇳 India 🇲🇽 Mexico 🇳🇱 Netherlands 🇳🇬 Nigeria 🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia 🇸🇬 Singapore 🇿🇦 South Africa 🇪🇸 Spain#ICAOA40
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has reiterated that the establishment of the National Carrier, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities and implementation of other components of the Aviation Roadmap remain top priorities of the Federal Government.
He gave the assurance at a meeting with members of the Joint Aviation Unions Forum, an umbrella body of all unions in the aviation sector on Friday at his office in Abuja.
Senator Sirika commended the unions and staff for welcoming him warmly back into office on his reappointment, declaring that he can only deliver to their expectation in an environment of industrial harmony.
According to him, the establishment of the national carrier would further position Nigeria to compete with other nations, in line with the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) project and develop as a regional hub for air transportation.
The minister was also confident that the establishment of MROs would save the country a lot of foreign exchange that would otherwise be spent by airline operators sending their aircraft abroad for checks.
He, therefore, promised to work with the unions in implementing the roadmap which he said would go a long way to advance the sector and position it to meet emerging challenges, while assuring them of continuous improvements to their welfare.
“I promise that there will be good understanding between us to drive the activities of our industry towards contributing more to national development.
“I will do everything reasonably possible to make the newly re-established ministry live up to the expectations of all stakeholders in the sector,” Sirika was quoted as saying in a statement by the ministry’s Director of Press and Public Affairs, James Odaudu.
He added, “This task, I think, is for you as well; not for me alone. It is for all of us. We will continue to hold stakeholders’ meetings with the unions, staff, the management and players within the industry.
“We will be committed to better welfare while expecting your full cooperation towards the implementation of The Aviation Roadmap which was developed during our first tenure.”
The ministry, according to the minister, will continue to lay emphasis on the safety and security of air travellers.
He said the recent acquisition of a calibration aircraft for the country and the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, for rehabilitation were some of the steps being taken to guarantee the safety of the nation’s airspace.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Forum and National President of Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN), Mr Ilitrus Ahmadu, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for ensuring continuity in the aviation sector.
He urged the minister to pick up full throttle from where he stopped, especially in the implementation of the Aviation Roadmap, one of which major aspects was the establishment of a national carrier.
According to Ahmadu, the establishment of the airline will not only guarantee more employment for pilots, cabin crew, engineers and other aviation professionals but also enhance the nation’s international image, being a major player in the aviation world.
He also enumerated other areas which required the minister’s attention to include ensuring the appointment of qualified people into the boards of aviation agencies, in line with their respective Acts.
The union leader also sought the approval of new Conditions of Service for agencies that were yet to have theirs, better funding for capacity building, and the revival of the annual Aviation Week.
The Federal Government has taken delivery of a calibration aircraft worth $8.5m that will serve in the calibration of navigational aids across Nigerian airports.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who made the disclosure on his twitter handle, says the aircraft would help make Nigeria’s airspace safer.
The minister says, ‘just received new calibration aircraft for the country. Make is king air 350i. Cost $8.5m.
The agony of contracting it to South Africa or Niger at about $500k every 6 months is over. Our airspace is safer.
Thanks Mr president, we started & finished during your regime’
Providing further explanation on the usefulness of the aircraft, the minister said “the purpose of this aircraft is to calibrate our equipment and aids in the country for the purpose of flight operations.
“We used to have one in Nigeria but for the last two decades, we never had one.”
According to Mr. Sirika, the decision to procure the aircraft is because during the reconstruction of the Abuja airport the need to re-calibrate all the landing aids at the time became apparent.
Just received new calibration aircraft for the country. Make is King Air 350i. Cost $8.5M. The agony of contracting it to South Africa or Niger at about $500K every 6 months is over. Our airspace is safer. Thanks Mr President, we started & finished during your regime 🕺🏽💪🏽🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/5C74RxSNPF