The Federal Airports Authority, FAAN, has been battling to extricate itself from the ethnic slur being given to the Ground handling company in the way they handled the Air peace landing crisis.
Recall that a Boeing 737-300 acquired by Air Peace was denied Landing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos by FAAN for several hours. After several hours of wrangling, the Aircraft was allowed to pack at the Cargo terminal instead of the normal parking bay. The visibly angry foreign Pilots who were expected to train the crew on the new Aircraft left, complaining about the treatment and hostility from FAAN, thereby creating an international embarrassment for the Nigerian Aviation industry.
The FAAN Airport Manager, Victoria Shin-aba who sent a message to the Airline that the Aircraft will not be allowed to pack at the Airport was less than civil. “Go and park in Enugu or find a place for it in Port Harcourt”, she was reported to have said. “We don’t have space in Lagos” This was coming on the heels of the just concluded governorship elections in Lagos where so called Igbophobia took center stage in Lagos.
Air Peace, which is said to be an Eastern owned airline, arrived from Dallas Airport in the United States.
According to the Airline, they got a letter from FAAN twenty minutes from time of the Aircraft was expected to land requesting that the Aircraft should not land.
“One of these Boeing 777 aircrafts creates jobs for 1500 people”, says Allen Onyema, the CEO of Air Peace. “It is only in Nigeria that you make this kind of investment and people will just sit down somewhere and decide to frustrate you. And these are the same people who will turn around to complain that Nigerian Airlines don’t have the capacity to purchase the right Aircraft for International Operations”.
Air peace is still embroiled in the issue of Boeing 737 max 8. They had ordered ten of the ill fated brand before the Ethiopian Airline crash. There were fears that Fidelity Bank, which has backed the financial undertaking for the airline might back out because of the huge financial implications. Boeing shares have plummeted in international markets in the wake of the crash.
Fidelity is also behind the current purchase.
But highly placed sources within Fidelity allayed such fears saying that they have been partnering with the Airline and are yet to back out.
When confronted with the issue, a visibly angry spokesperson of FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, declined comment. “I have nothing to say on that topic”, he told this magazine-a statement she repeated three times, underlying her cautious nervousness. “Whatever you need are written in the papers” , she said, fiddling with her phone.
Her worries and apprehensions are understandable: She has been the center of focus on the unfortunate saga.
But the image maker of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, insisted that whatever happened is a product of communications breakdown between Air Peace and FAAN, and need to be resolved with dialogue.
This is the third Boeing 777 acquired by Air Peace which they are preparing to use for international flights. According to sources within the airline, the aircraft are packed since they are being used for training, and auditing procedures are being done with the NCAA to complete the registration formalities.