Posted by Sade Williams
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), has been urged to not only suspend operations of illegal charter operators but also hand them over to security agents for stricter punishment.
While commending the Authority for apprehending a private jet operator who allegedly converted its aircraft into charter services, thereby denying the government and the agency the required revenues and taxesa, captain Ibrahim Mshelia, Chairman, West Link Airlines in a telephone interview over the weekend, said that the regulatory agency needed the support of all in order to effectively sanitise the industry.
He explained that full autonomy of NCAA would further empower and embolden it to carry out some reform processes in the sector, lamenting that a few of the operators who carry out this act were “connected” in the country.
According to him, Capt. Musa Nuhu, the current Director-General, NCAA with his international experience and exposure was ready and willing to carry out the needed reforms in the sector, but said all hands must be on deck to make this work.
Mshelia, however, frown at the 60 days suspension of the culprit and planned seizure of its Permit for Non- Commercial Flight (PNCF), saying the punishment was too little to deter others from engaging in such act in the future.
Rather, he suggested that the regulatory agency should hand over such culprit to the security agencies for proper prosecution, insisting that such act was an economic crime against the state.
He, however, observed that NCAA’s action may be limited because of the civil aviation regulations, but declared that for proper cleansing of the sub-sector, it was proper for the Department of Security Services (DSS) and other security agencies to wade into the matter.
Mshelia advised that instead of engaging in illegal charter services, some of the private jet operators should change their license to commercial, airlift clients legally, create more jobs for teeming professionals and pay the appropriate levies and taxes to the government.
He said: “NCAA in what they are doing at the moment, they need our help. So many of us know the truth and we can help NCAA to act. We have a system that is hopeless, but you cannot say the truth in the public, otherwise you are called the radical. It shows us that the current NCAA helmsman is determined to exhibit what he has learnt from outside. The man was in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). He knows what is happening in other countries, he has seen it and he has come to say no.
“The real truth is that there are powerful people behind all these illegal actions. If they are not, it would have been easy to flush them out. They want to live big. Some of these people are in a position to stop this in a minute, but they are involved in it. If we dig deeper, we will find them out.
“I disagree with the DG on the 60 days suspension of license. That is a crime against the economy of the country. That is a crime against all we stand for. Why will NCAA just give such a little punishment? The punishment should be more serious.
“I want to call your attention to something, NCAA is not a law court; it has its limitation legislatively on how it can punish citizens legislatively. I want to advise that the NCAA should go further by handing over the culprit for prosecution in the law court. In that case, it will be in order. To me, the 60 days is too little.”
Nuhu at a virtual meeting last week had disclosed that the regulatory agency had apprehended a private jet operator who uses its equipment for charter services.
He also said that the culprit’s license whose identity was not revealed would be suspended for about 60 days with additional sanction if found guilty.
According to Nuhu, the regulatory body had put in mechanisms to identify these illegal operators who convert their private jets into hire and reward, thereby denying the Federal Government the requisite revenues,, while the registered charter operators also lose clients and revenues.
He threatened that the agency would apply full weight of the law in this regards, stressing that it had also increased its ramp checks to reduce such dastardly act in the industry.
He said: “These private operators are required to file monthly reports on the number of flights conducted and with passenger manifest for us to look and determine that possibly these are legal charter operations.
“We are dealing with actually one of the Permit for Non- Commercial Flight (PNCF), the enforcement team has recommended 60 days suspension of its certificate in addition to fine. So, they have a period of 30 days for which to get back to us or protest or bring evidence that we ask them.”