Domestic flights to wait, says Fed Govt

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Domestic flights will no longer resume on June 21, Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika said yesterday.

The minister spoke during the briefing by members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.

He also explained that a new date would be fixed after a report is submitted the Task Force for review next week.

The minister, who was represented by the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, said the ministry had developed and sent a circular to all stakeholders to develop a restart plan and submit to the regulatory body for review and approval depending on the business of the service providers.

According to him, the restart plan is meant to cover airworthiness, operations, passenger licencing, aviation security, safety management system, consumer protection, and air transport regulation.

“Currently, a lot of service providers have provided their restart plans and the plans are supposed to be reviewed by NCAA; the regulator of the industry.

We are going to review the documents and if we are happy with the documents, then we will go to each organisation to verify what they have given as their restart plan,” Sirika said.

He explained that the public health corridor concept was developed in collaboration with national health authorities including the Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC and Port Health Services in addition to guidelines from the World Health Organisation (who) and other international organisations,

“The Civil Aviation Authority despite all pressures coming from all quotas will not approve the start of operations at any date until we are sure and confirm that we are ready to start in a safe, secure, organise and efficient manner,” Sirika said.

Unions in the nation’s aviation sector at a meeting with the Senate Committee on Aviation in Abuja said the country was not ready for domestic flights to resume.

Present at the meeting were the National President of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Galadima Abednego, the National President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Ahmadu Ilitrus, and the General Secretary of Joint Aviation Trade Union Forum, Nnamdi Hector.

Abednego told the Committee that many of the pilots had lost their currency as a result of the lockdown spanning about 75 days.

According to him, the pilots require $30,000 for re-currency or re-certification in the face of none payment of salaries.

“Most of the airlines have either disengaged their pilots during the lockdown or not able to pay them full salaries, treating us as modern day slaves.

Therefore, before restarting the sector, pilots and aircrafts must be re-certified for safety and security, which have not been done,” Abednego said.

Ilitrus insisted that restarting the sector now would be a recipe for disaster as many of the workers are hungry and angry due to none payment of their salaries.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, said the issues raised by the union leaders needed to be addressed to prevent untoward outcomes.

Adeyemi urged the Federal Government to ensure that all that is required for safety and security are put in place before giving the go ahead for the airspace to be reopened.

Speaking at a webinar, NCAA’s Director of Consumer Protection, Abdullahi Usman, said the agency was assessing airlines’ preparedness to resume operations.

“What we have now is work in progress. Most of the airlines have submitted their checklist and we are carrying out the analysis to ascertain their level of compliance.

Some airlines have attained 75 per cent whereas others have attained 95 per cent,” Usman said.

Also speaking at the webinar, President, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) , Dr Gbenga Olowo, called for more investment in technology in passenger screening to eliminate confusion.

Chairman, Air Peace, Allen Onyema, criticised the proposal for vacation of the middle seat in the aircraft was not in the interest of the industry.

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