Against the backdrop of recent air disasters in the country, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, yesterday, raised an alarm before the Senate pointing out that there are no laws preventing aged aircraft from flying in the airspace of the country.
NCAA urges the National Assembly to amend the existing law; otherwise it would continue registering old aircraft, as no law stops it from granting operating licenses to aircraft that are above 50 years.
At a public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Aviation, where all heads of agencies under the Ministry of Aviation appeared to answer questions from the committee on problems in the sector, Director of Aerodrome Services, Mr. Joyce Nkemakolam, who incidentally acted as Director-General after the sack of former Director General, Mr Harold Demuren, also disclosed that of all the nation’s airports, not one had been fully certified.
Senator Uzodima during his address said his committee revealed that the NCAA issued several operational licences to non existing aircraft in the country. They also found that the aircraft manufactured over 43 years ago were flying the country’s airspace with registration of other old ones still being carried out by the NCAA.
He ordered the agency to emulate the Nigeria Customs Service which took brave step in banning over-aged vehicles from being imported into the country, pointing out that that plane crashes being witnessed in the country was partly due to the problem.
But Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu claimed in response that the existing legislation didn't provide for such law which could allow putting an end to the usage of old aircraft. He also appealed to the National Assembly to come up with appropriate law.
Senator Hope Uzodinma meanwhile accused the NCAA of issuing twice the number of certificates since the exit of the former Director-General the agency.
According to the Aviation Committee Chairman, one of the operators among six others whose identity he did not disclose, was given license to operate by NCAA under Joyce Nkemakolam, former Acting DG, NCAA, although the operator owned no aircraft.
These operators, Senator Uzodinma noted, were yet to commence operations due to inadequacies of not having any aircraft till date six months after issuance of said licences.
A member of the committee, Senator Ali Ndume, was angry with the decision of NCAA over its decision to certify a 43 -year old aircraft, Westlink Airlines, as “air-worthy.”
He called it insulting to fly Nigerians in a 43-year-old aircraft.
"You have a right to say that anybody who has an aircraft older than 12 years should not come to your office. After all the customs did theirs,” Ndume fumed.
Earlier, Senator Uzodinma queried the Director-General of NCAA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, over the agency’s failure to take action on one of the agency’s Principal Operations Inspectors identified as Mr. Agwu.
The said inspector allegedly engaged in fraudulent while being responsible for inspecting Beachcraft, Dana and Associated airlines, both of which subsequently became involved in air crashes.
According to Capt. Akinkuotu, the investigation regarding this issue is currently being conducted.
As far as the problem of procurement of bullet proof cars for the Minister of Aviation, the NCAA Director-General told the committee that the agency did not come before the Senate with information required, as it did not come prepared to respond to the issue of the armoured cars.