Why Nigeria Air’s AOC Processing Stopped At Phase One

Some reasons why Nigeria Air’s Air Operators Certificate (AOC) stalled for so long at Phase One of the process has come to light.
This is just as the Interim Managing Director of the proposed airline is said to have been appointed solely to process legal documentation and hand over to the Ethiopians when done.
Capt. Dapo Olumide’s involvement in the project began in March 2022 to work on the technical aspects of securing an AOC and was not under the employ of the Nigeria Air project back in 2016 – 2018 during the set-up of the airline, nor the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission/ Bureau of Public Procurement (ICRC/BPP) tender process as he came .
Last week at a Senate Committee probe, Capt. Olumide had explained that his mandate was to ensure the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, get an Air Transport License (ATL) and an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) having been following his wealth of experience.
Olumide who was appointed in March 2022 secured Nigeria Air its ATL with number NCAA/ATR1/ATL214 for a period of five (5)years till in June 3, 2022 to elapse June 2nd, 2027, however, the airline is yet to acquire an AOC as the interim Managing Director started the five step process but was stalled on stage one.
The five step AOC processes are Phase 1 – Pre-Application Phase; Phase 2 – Formal Application Phase; Phase 3 – Document Evaluation Phase; Phase 4 – Demonstration and Inspection Phase; Phase 5 – Certification Phase.
Many of the regulatory requirements for an AOC include the recruitment of post holders (Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, Director of Maintenance and Quality Manager), flight dispatchers, flight crew and the provision of facilities at the airport for an operational control centre for the airline’s operations.
However, it seems like he was not given a freehand to actually do this as immense pressure came from on top to sidestep the processes in a hurry to meet unrealistic deadlines despite Professional disagreement.
A source who confided with our reporter claims that the whole AOC process has taken so long because of the interference of the minister and the lackadaisical attitude of the ministry especially with regards provision of needed infrastructure to drive the process to new stages.
She said,” Look the truth is that the AOC process would have been in the bag but for the Ministry which does not provide certain infrastructure for the AOC stage they are in, this slows everything down. So Captain Olumide may know what to do and how, but he does not have a free hand to do what must be done.
“Take for example, the post holders they were on contracts and the Government can only give three months to contractors because they are not employees of the Government, and their time elapsed. Aviation is different from a lot of fields in that everything is time based. If they had had an extension the NCAA would have progressed the AOC to the next stage but changing one post holder is something but changing all means the process has to restart.” She said.
The source also revealed that apart from the Ministry, the Court Injunction by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) in November 2022 also halted the process of recruitment of critical personnel like flight dispatchers, flight crew and the provision of facilities at the airport for an operational control centre for the airline’s operations.
“I also think if not for the court order, Captain Olumide may have gone far with the AOC process. When the AON went to court and got the injunction it further stalled things for Nigeria Air but it is good that Olumide had set up the OCC already.
An AOC process is expected to take no less than 12 months minimum and may exceed if processes are stalled due to documentation or other reasons, making the hurry to pass off a chartered flight as the country’s national carrier aircraft moot especially when the Government contracted a professional to do the job.
According to Capt. Olumide in his interview with the Senate, the AOC process has gone from the first phase to the second one but the problem is when you change post holders which is a technical term for director of maintenance, or chief pilot.
When you change post holders or replace them completely, you have to go back to phase one to interview them to be compliant to the civil aviation authority.

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Albinus Chiedu

Albinus Chiedu is a journalist, aviation media consultant, events management professional, and author. He has practiced journalism since 2000.

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