Abuja — Against the backdrop of recent air disasters in the country, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, yesterday, raised an alarm before the Senate that there are no laws empowering it to stop aged aircraft flying our airspace.
The agency said unless the National Assembly amends the existing law; it would continue to register old aircraft, saying 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..
Nkemakolam, who was asked by Senator Hope Uzodinma, Chairman of Senate Committee on Aviation to name the airports in the country that were fully certified, simply responded: "Distinguished chairman, no airport in Nigeria has been fully certified."
Senator Uzodima, while speaking at the occasion, said his committee discovered that the NCAA issued several operational licences to non existing aircraft in the country just as he said it 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 tasked the agency to emulate the Nigeria Customs Service which took bold step in banning over-aged vehicles from being imported into the country, saying that incidents of air crash being witnessed in the country was partly due to the problem.
But responding, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, said that at the moment, there was no law in place to put an end to the usage of old aircraft in the country and appealed to the National Assembly, through the appropriate committees to come up with legislation to that effect.
Senator Hope Uzodinma, lamented the reckless abandon with which the NCAA issued licences and Air Operations Certificates. AOCs, without recourse to, and observance for prescribed and laid down regulations.
He accused the agency of issuing twice the number of certificates since the exit of the former Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demurem.
Uzodinma said: "The issue of AOC is a serious matter, since after Demuren, the NCAA has issued twice the number of certificates.
"When it comes to the issue of safety, standards and regulations, we cannot compromise."
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, despite the fact that the operator did not own any 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, condemned the action of NCAA over its decision to certify a 43 -year old aircraft, Westlink Airlines, as "air-worthy."
"In this time and age where aircraft are with high technology, you are approving AOC for an aircraft which is 43 years old. It is an insult to fly Nigerians in an aircraft that is 43 years old. It doesn't make sense. 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 and sharp practices while being responsible for inspecting Beachcraft, Dana and Associated airlines, both of which subsequently became involved in air crashes.
Responding, Capt. Akinkuotu said the agency was presently conducting an investigation into the matter, adding that "we have interrogated him, and there is an on-going in-house investigation."
On the alleged 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 needed since it did not come prepared to respond to the issue of the armoured cars.