Pulse can report that Nigeria’s current economic outlook, not 'mandatory maintenance', is the real reason why some of the nation’s carriers are shutting shop.
Twenty four hours later, FirstNation, another carrier, announced it was going to be leaving its planes in the hangar.
Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Muhtar Usman, put the closures down to the dwindling number of planes in the fleet of the carriers.
“Another aircraft is due for mandatory maintenance as is allowable by NCAA,” Usman said.
“In these circumstances, these airlines clearly cannot continue to undertake schedule operations, hence the inevitable recourse to self-regulatory suspension.”
According to TheCable, Usman explained that "it is against the Nigerian civil aviation regulations for airline operators to carry out schedule commercial operation with only one aircraft, the reason both Aero Contractors and First Nation had to suspend operations.
"He said NCAA would never compromise safety and security of airlines operations in the airspace, adding that every facet of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARS) and Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) must be adhered to with due diligence."
Usman insisted that the domestic carriers had not wound down operations. He said they were “merely suspending their operations temporarily to enable them undertake certain operational overhaul and strengthen their overall operational outlay."
Pulse has however spoken to a number of aviation experts and industry players who painted a rather different and gloomy picture of the entire scenario.
“The economic recession Nigeria is facing is also taking its toll on the aviation sector. Operators have been barely able to stay afloat because of forex shortage, depreciating value of the Naira and scarcity of aviation fuel”, said an Aero Contractors personnel who spoke to us anonymously.
Another staff of Aero also contradicted the story put forward by the NCAA. “It isn’t true that we announced an indefinite suspension because we had to maintain aircraft. We have 3 aircraft at Aero and there are all in good working condition.
"Management asked us to go home because it was no longer able to meet its obligations to employees.
“Members of staff were being owed backlog in salaries and management was engaged in an industrial dispute with the labour unions. We were asked to vacate our duty posts because the economic outlook wasn’t looking positive. Aero is suffering like every other company in the country”.
Another top level management personnel at FirstNation airline appeared to strike a similar tone. “Well, if the government agency responsible said it’s because we have only one aircraft at the moment and can’t maintain the other, doesn’t that tell you that there’s no money for maintenance?
"We are broke like everyone else”, said the source who asked not to be named because he had not been authorized to comment on the story."
The management of Aero airline said in the statement by Tumba, that it was winding down operations because of the economy.
“The impact of the external environment has been very harsh on our operational performance, hence management decision to suspend scheduled services operations indefinitely effective September 1, 2016, pending when the external opportunities and a robust sustainable and viable plan is in place for Aero Contractors to recommence its scheduled services,” the statement had read.
“The implication of the suspension of scheduled services operations extends to all staffs directly and indirectly involved in providing services as they are effectively to proceed on indefinite leave of absence during the period of non-services”.
Some major international players in the Nigerian economy are also walking away, as the recession continues to choke the life off businesses.
South Africa’s Sun International— a hotel and gaming concern, announced last week that it was leaving Nigeria. The company cited weak economic growth and clashes with regulators as reasons for its decision.
Sun International was joining food and clothing retailers Tiger Brand, Woolworths and Truworths, who left Nigeria on account of a dwindling bottom-line.
Most of the businesses are heading to neigbouring Ghana to set up shops, as the Nigerian economic environment continues to prove unfavorable for big business and start-ups alike, Pulse has found out.
Pulse put a call across to Usman, for a reaction to the claims of the airlines, but his mobile wasn’t answered nor were the calls returned.
An NCAA employee told Pulse: “The DG has issued a statement on the development. That should suffice for the media.”