Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, has cleared the air on the operations of Arik Air and the wet-lease relationship that exist between Syphax Airline from Tunisia.
The CAA made the clarification following reactions that trailed social media post by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Affairs, over the carrier’s operation.
Aircraft leases are leases used by airlines and other aircraft operators. Airlines lease aircraft from other airlines or leasing companies for two main reasons: to operate aircraft without the financial burden of buying them, and to provide temporary increase in capacity.
Obafemi’s post drew the ire of aviation stakeholders who demanded an apology from him.
His post read: “Do we still have aviation correspondents in Nigeria? I bought an Arik Airline ticket recently to travel from Lagos to Abuja. When we were bused to board the plane, I saw that the plane was not branded. This was to be my first shock.
“On entering the plane to take my seat I saw that all the crew were Arab sounding male and female. Arik? What is happening? Has it been sold? If so when? Which company bought it? My curiosity as a reporter will not stop there.
“On sitting down I went for the pocket of the sit and saw the safety card with the inscription Syphax Airline. So also was the inscription on the uniform of the hostess. I went and consulted Google and found this was a Tunisian airline established in 2011 and packed up in 2015.
“Still thinking what this could mean, right in front of me on the head rest of the seat was ValuJet Service Operated by Arik. When served refreshment, written on the pack was VALUEPACK. Again I went back to Google ValueJet commenced operation in 1993 and ceased operations in 1997.
“Back in the seat pocket there is Malimbe, an Arik inflight magazine for January 2020.
“I am told this phenomenon has been noticed by frequent fliers for close to two months now. So it is not new. It didn’t start yesterday.
“What is happening? Someone need to explain this to Nigerians”
“This should be the role of journalists. When Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo, my late friend who was The Guardian Aviation correspondent in the 80s and 90s he would have investigated and broken down this for the patrons of the airline and for policy makers as well.
“Adinoyi Ojo would have resolved for us: who bought Arik; how was the deal arrived at; what is the health of the company or the investors who bought it; what are they bringing in ; what is the fate of Nigerians working under the new arrangement;?what is the percentage ratio of foreign workers to Nigerian workers as agreed to in the deal and many others that are technical. Right now we are in the dark.
“Those years of excellence are long gone we know. We however must insist that the media do her job. It is important for the growth of our country and our democracy.
“An airline is too important to operate in mystery. Our lives are in the hand of this airline. We need to know the operators who we are handing our safety over to.
“And now the big question, why a local airline parade foreign employees should. As pilots yes, but it is unacceptable for a local airline to hire expatriates to serve soda and biscuit. What happens to our young men and women who are unemployed.
“Our editors, reporters please provide us answers to these questions. This is a matter of business and of our national economy. It is a big development in an important sector as it is about the safety of Nigerians.
“This is the role of the media. That is why it is termed 4th Estate of the Realm” his post read.
Responding the regulatory agency said the indigenous carrier had not violated any extant law with its wet-lease agreement in its current operations, adding that lease of any form was a stopgap arrangement by airlines.
According to independent.ng, Mr Sam Adurogboye, NCAA’s General Manager, Public Affairs, made the clarification over the weekend in his office at the Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA), Lagos.
He expressed surprise at the reaction the wet-lease agreement between Arik Air and the Tunisian carrier had generated in the past few days.
He explained that most of the aircraft in operations were under various lease agreements, pointing out that most of the mega carriers in the industry don’t own their aircraft out rightly and wondered why such should generate furore in the country.
Adurogboye mentioned wet-lease, dry-lease and damp-lease as the various leasing options available in the industry, noting that operators could choose any of the options that please their operations at a particular point in time.
He said: “Aircraft leasing should not be an issue. It is just about information and knowledge. You can establish an airline without having an aircraft of your own as an operator. You either dry lease, wet lease, damp lease or you do an outright purchase.
“Wet-lease is you secure an aircraft that belongs to another organisation for a short time. That is what our regulation permits. In this agreement, the owner of the aircraft will continue to service it, crew, insurance and others. All the new operator does is just to pay a fee for using it.
“The aviation industry laws permit wet lease arrangement, which is to act as a stopgap, especially when your aircraft has gone for checks. But, you can’t do this without the approval of your Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
“I can tell you that there is nothing to worry about in aircraft leasing. If you are a frequent flier, you will know that at times, you fly an airline that you didn’t buy its tickets.
“There is no airline that goes into any agreement without carrying along the CAA. We are involved in anything they do. It is allowed and covers by our operations. Ours is to ensure they operate within the rules and comply with the extant rules. I want to say that people should not have cause to worry, we are a part of it, we know about it, it is done everywhere in the world.”
Besides, Mr. Abiola Lawal, the Managing Director of Quorum Aviation said that airline operators have several leasing options recognised worldwide in the industry.
He explained that each airline could choose from any of the three leasing options, depending on its capacity and the plan of the management.
Lawal declared the use of foreigners as cabin crew on local flights was not also strange to the industry, stressing that inasmuch NCAA was aware of such arrangement; the airline had not violated safety standard regulations.