By Suleiman Danjuma
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has suspended the Air Operators Certificate (AOC) of First Nation Airways indefinitely over “unauthorised and illegal operations.”
NCAA Spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, said in a statement that the suspension was conveyed to the airline via a letter with reference No. NCAA/DG/CSLA/ RM/1-06/18/2304 dated May 11, 2018 and signed by the agency’s Director General, Muhtar Usman.
He said the letter had been delivered to First Nation Airways and the airline had acknowledged receipt. Mr Adurogboye said: “The suspension is sequel to the flagrant and continuous violation of the terms and conditions of issuance of its AOC by the airline thereby carrying out unauthorised and illegal operations.
“The letter revealed that when the AOC of First Nation Airways expired, the airline did not have at least two airworthy aircraft capable of servicing its approved schedule as required by Part 18.104.22.168(b)(2) (ii) of Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation (Nig.CARS) 2015.
“Consequently, the airline’s Air Operators Certificate (AOC) was, upon renewal, restricted to non-scheduled operation, (Charter) only.”
According to him, the airline however embarked on scheduled operations with continuous advertisement of its services and sold tickets at its Check-in counters in Lagos and Abuja Airports. He said that NCAA had earlier notified the airline that it was investigating these violations.
“Subsequently, by a letter dated August 31, 2017, the airline was directed to stop the illegal operations forthwith, warning that failure to desist would lead to a suspension of its operating authorisation.
“On further investigation, it was discovered that the airline had disregarded all warnings and continued with the unauthorised and illegal operations in violation of its AOC terms and conditions of issuance.”
He said the action contravened the provisions of Part 22.214.171.124(d) of the Nig.CARS 2015. He said the provisions of the Nig.CARS 2015 provide that “Each AOC holder shall at all times, continue in compliance with the AOC terms and conditions of issuance and maintenance requirements to hold that certificate.”
Mr Adurogboye said that NCAA had therefore determined that, pursuant to Section 35(2),(3) (a) (ii) and (4) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, First Nation Airways was no longer fit to operate air transport business under the authority of the AOC.
He said: “Accordingly, the airline’s AOC has been suspended indefinitely, with effect from May 11. when it received the notice. “In addition, the operators of the airline are expected to return the AOC to the NCAA’s Director of Operations and Training within seven days of receiving the letter.”
Mr Adurogboye, however said that if the airline demonstrated ability and willingness to comply with the extant regulations, NCAA would review its operations and restore its AOC to enable it begin operations again.
He reiterated NCAA’s zero tolerance for violations of the Nig.CARS, adding that it would continue to enforce compliance through application of appropriate sanctions for any infractions.
The suspension of the operation worsens the problem of First Nation. Its managing director, Kayode Odukoya, is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, for alleged fraud.