The Federal Government has cautioned politicians to desist from encouraging their supporters to access restricted areas of the airports, insisting that such action constitute a security threat to travelers and other airport users.
Also, following the recent invasion of the Sultan Abubakar 111 International Airport, Sokoto, by the supporters of the former Governor of the state, Senator Aliu Wamakko, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has been directed to designate an area at every airport in the country, especially domestic airports where supporters of political parties should wait and receive their leaders.
These developments are coming as the major aircraft manufacturer, Airbus has confirmed that it is in talks with the federal government on aircraft order for the national carrier, Nigeria Air.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, gave the warning yesterday after a meeting with the Managing Director of FAAN, Saleh Dunoma, and the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman, in Abuja.
The meeting was convened following last Friday’s invasion of the Sultan Abubakar 111 International Airport, Sokoto, by the supporters of Wamakko.
The minister condemned the invasion, saying it is against global standard practices and insisted that a solution must be found to avert such incidents in the future.
A source privy to the meeting told newsmen that after deliberations, it was agreed that FAAN must designate an area at every airport in the country, especially domestic airports, where such supporters must wait and receive their leaders.
It was also agreed that the FAAN should sensitise politicians on the need to ensure that security regulations are not breached to avert a threat of lives and property at the airports.
In reaction to the incident, NCAA in a statement said it has commenced a full-scale investigation into the wanton security violation.
It called on FAAN, the police and other security agencies to continue to work together to ensure that all airports are safe and secure for airline operations.
Spokesman of NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, said the agency would carry out a full-scale investigation into the incident.
“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) Part 17.48.3(c), which stipulate that access by persons and vehicles to restricted areas, enhanced security restricted areas, and sterile areas are restricted only to persons who have a clear need for such access by virtue of their duties,” Adurogboye said.
He stated that the NCAA would not tolerate the reoccurrence of any such safety and security violations at any of the country’s airports, adding that in view of the anticipated increase in aviation activities, FAAN as well as other State and private aerodrome operators should beef up safety and security systems at their airports.
The agency also cautioned the public to desist from the unlawful acts, adding that it will not hesitate to impose severe sanctions on any person, a group of persons or organisations found culpable.
Meanwhile, a major aircraft manufacturer, Airbus has confirmed that it is in talks with the federal government on aircraft order for the national carrier, Nigeria Air.
Airbus made the confirmation in response to THISDAY request, saying that it is at different levels of discussion with the federal government over the national carrier.
Although Airbus refused to give details of the discussion, the company, however, hinted that it would lease to Nigeria the initial operational aircraft for long-haul service and provide aircraft maintenance facility.
“Airbus confirms discussions about Nigeria Air have taken place with the Nigeria government, but we cannot comment on the specifics of them”, the company’s spokesperson said.
However, there are three levels of discussion which include the establishment of Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facility, the establishment of a leasing company and aircraft order for the national carrier.
It also gathered that Airbus is considering these requests, just as the federal government also held discussions with Boeing and other Equipment Manufacturing Organisations (EMOs).
Information available to THISDAY also indicates that the federal government does not want to establish a national carrier without MRO and leasing company in order to guarantee the future of the airline.
According to government’s plan, there is need to have major MRO in Nigeria so that the new airline would not ferry its aircraft overseas for maintenance at a huge cost as the leasing company is expected to provide the airline aircraft on lease and also service other airlines in the West and Central Africa sub-regions.
We also learned that government’s plan is for Airbus to provide the new airline bigger, double-aisle aircraft for long-haul flights, while Boeing would supply single-aisle aircraft for short haul flights, domestic and sub-regional operations.
A senior official from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), who confirmed the discussions, said that talks with Airbus encompassed aircraft order and lease in addition to the maintenance facility.
The official said, “Nigeria Air will have to start with leased aircraft because when you order aircraft it takes time to manufacture and supply them. So the airline will start with leased aircraft pending the time the ones ordered would be delivered.”
The Director-General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman also said that the maintenance facility that would be established for the national carrier would help to create jobs and further the training and development of indigenous manpower in the technical areas of aviation.
He said that it would save money for Nigeria, as domestic carriers would now carry out checks in the maintenance facility and would even attract foreign exchange to the country because airlines from the West Coast would bring their aircraft to Nigeria for maintenance.
“It will also help NCAA to monitor the maintenance of the aircraft and save the money spent on traveling to Approved Maintenance Organisations (AMO) overseas. Now we send them to go and inspect maintenance of aircraft overseas and that costs money. So we will continue to monitor the aircraft and the airlines closely,” the Director-General said.
He said that the benefits of a national carrier will extend to the training of personnel and also open up the country, as trainees from overseas would come and train on aircraft maintenance in Nigeria, which would expose Nigeria’s tourism potential.
The informed source has also confirmed that after the initial discussions with Ethiopia Airlines at Farnborough Airshow mid last month in London, the company has put in a bid to partner with Nigeria for the national carrier.
Ethiopia Airline CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam had earlier confirmed that he held discussions with the federal government on how he would partner with Nigeria on the establishment and running of the national carrier.
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