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Nigeria Air: Due Process was Followed – ICRC

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• Says Process was midwifed by the Commission

By Victor Iko-Ojo

Against the backdrop of widespread allegations of wrong doings and noncompliance with rules guiding the execution of public-private partnerships regarding the establishment of Nigeria’s national carrier, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) has absolved the former minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika and the Ministry of any wrong doing in the establishment of the national carrier, Nigeria Air.

According to a report in the Punch newspaper of 18th June, 2023, the Commission, in a recent memo to the national assembly asserted that all due processes were followed and relevant approvals got by the Ministry of Aviation.

Quoting extensively from the said memo, the report indicated that the commission, which is leading the negotiations for the deal, stated that Ethiopian Airline has 49 per cent; MRS Oil and Gas Limited, 15 per cent; SAHCO, 15 per cent; Federal Government, five per cent while 16 per cent had yet to be allotted.
The report stated as follows:
“The ICRC memo also indicated that the proposal was turned down five times by the Federal Executive Council under the Buhari administration before it was eventually approved the sixth time.

The ICRC gave details of the deal, “The national carrier project was initiated by the Ministry of Transportation in 2016 as part of the Aviation Sector Roadmap, which was approved by Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari). The project was structured to be implemented as a public-private partnership initiative, for which the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission’s regulatory guidance was sought.

“The ICRC provided the required guidance for the implementation of the project in line with the requirements of the ICRC Establishment Act 2005 and the National Policy on PPPS. Following the guidance provided, the following milestones were achieved:

“Constitution of project steering committee and a project delivery team to guide the implementation of the project. Appointment of a Transaction Adviser – this was done in compliance with the Bureau of Public Procurement Act. Lufthansa Technik was first procured but later changed to Airline Management Group/Traniero after obtaining FEC approval. Development and submission of an Outline Business Case by the Airline Management Group in 2018.

“The structure involved the Federal Government of Nigeria holding five per cent equity, while the remaining 95 per cent is held by private partners (the foreign partner who is required to have undertaken at Ieast 10 years scheduled international operations) will hold a maximum of 49 per cent, while the Nigerian partners hold a minimum of 46 per cent.”

The ICRC said its Certificate of Compliance to the OBC confirmed the viability and creditworthiness of the project.

Speaking on the reason why FEC rejected the proposal five times, the ICRC noted, “It is important to note that the OBC was presented to FEC six times before it was approved. This was due to the insistence by FEC that the Federal Government will not contribute any funds to the take-off of the airline as was initially structured. FEC requested that the project should be fully privately financed since it’s viable and bankable,” Ohiani noted.

The ICRC said after 10 weeks of advertisement, only the Ethiopian Airlines consortium submitted a bid and that the project proceeded to the negotiation stage, based on Section 5 (a) of the ICRC establishment Act 2005.

The section states that if after advertisement in accordance with Section 4 of this Act only one contractor or project proponent applied or submits a bid or proposal, or only one contractor or project proponent meets the prequalification requirements, the ministry, agency, corporation, body may undertake direct negotiation without competitive bidding for any contract to be entered into, pursuant to Section 1 of the Act.

On the reason why the documents were yet to be signed, the memo noted, “Several preparatory meetings were held as a prelude to negotiations between the Ministry of Aviation and other government stakeholders before engaging with the Ethiopian Airlines Consortium.

“The commission thereafter requested the implementation of the following before negotiations: the consortium to be a Special Purpose Vehicle; consortium to sign a shareholders’ agreement/updated consortium agreement; the 16 per cent unallotted shares to be fully allotted in compliance with CAMA 2022 and transparency principles; and project to adhere fully to the requirements of the request for proposal document.”

The memo indicated that negotiation was thereafter convened to discuss the issues highlighted for the consortium to implement but had to be suspended when it was observed that members of the consortium were working at cross-purposes.

This, it said, was based on the following observations/complaints by members; that the consortium had not agreed on their structure and function; some members were not privy to the documents under consideration; the consortium had not met on their own and had informed the meeting that the TA to the ministry had been the one calling for all their meetings and guiding their interactions.

It continued, “The consortium was thereafter requested to meet and resolve all their issues and present a common position for the purpose of negotiations and executing the PPP agreement with the government. They were unable to resolve their issues and sign the shareholder’s agreement as requested.

“This led to a letter of complaint from SAHCO expressing its concerns and not accepting the shareholders’ agreement as presented. Ethiopian Airlines responded with justification for the issues raised. Efforts to mediate through physical meetings and correspondences towards ensuring the signing of the shareholders’ agreement are ongoing.

“A meeting of the government representatives was thereafter convened at the ICRC to harmonise the position of the government before engaging in any discussion with the private proponent.”

It said the meeting agreed that every member of the consortium would be required to sign the PPP agreement individually as well as the shareholders’ agreement.

It added that the meeting further agreed that the 16 per cent unallotted shares must be fully allotted; that the project must have duration to comply with the requirements of the ICRC Establishment Act and that all clauses that allocate financing and regulatory risk to the government must be reviewed and adjusted appropriately.

The ICRC said it wrote a regulatory position to all members of the consortium on April 17, 2023, with a review and highlighted issues that needed to be addressed and corrected before the shareholders’ agreement could be signed.

According to the commission, some of the issues included that the Ministry of Finance Incorporated to hold the five per cent Federal Government’s equity and sign the shareholders’ agreement on behalf of the government; full allotment of the 16 per cent unallotted shares in the consortium recognition and valuation of the Bilateral Air Services Agreements as part of Federal Government’s contribution to the project; provide clarity on the status of local airlines currently operating regional and international routes, in view of request for total rights over all the existing BASAs; and “the deletion of the clause that waives sovereign immunity by Nigeria.”

The ICRC added that the ministry convened a negotiation meeting on April 18 and 19, 2023, at the ministry “but could not proceed as representative of the Federal Ministry of Justice cited a court order restraining any action on the project.”

The memo indicated that the next step was for all shareholders to sign the shareholders’ agreement and that negotiation should resume and be concluded once the court order was lifted.

On the next step, the ICRC memo added, “Full Business Case to be prepared and submitted to the ICRC for review and issuance of certificate; presentation to the Federal Executive Council for approval; vetting of draft PPP agreement by Ministry of Justice; and contract execution” the report concluded.

Findings have however revealed that this final step will not be necessary, as an anticipatory approval had already been given by former President Mohammadu Buhari before he handed over to current President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Reacting to the report, a labour leader in the aviation sector said he had followed the process of the Nigeria Air project from the beginning and was convinced that the right things were being done but had faced a lot of sabotage by people who, for reasons known to them, want to ensure that Nigeria Air does not see the light of day.

The union leader who preferred not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said the ICRC memo had proved the former Minister’s position right that the process leading to the establishment of the national carrier has been transparent in all ramifications.

Recall that the former Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika was recently on a television programme to dispel what he described as unfounded insinuations that the national carrier project was meant to stifle the domestic airlines.

According to him, the real fear of some of the domestic operators was that Nigeria Air will provide Nigerians with a veritable option in terms of ticket prices and destinations.

The former minister also cleared the air on how much has gone into the establishment of the national airline, saying that a total of less than N3billion had been spent as at the time of his leaving office.

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Aviation

Private Jets Operating Commercial Services to Lose Licences – NCAA DG

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The Acting Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Chris Najomo has warned that all private jet operators operating commercial charter services risks loosing their licenses.

He gave the warning in Lagos on Friday during the media unveiling of his vision board for year 2024 tagged NCAA Project 2024.

The Ag.DG, who expressed concern over the illicit activities of illegal private jet operators in the country, said if private jets wants to operate as commercial or charter operators, they should apply for the commercial licences.

Highlighting the regulatory provisions, Najomo noted that only holders of Air Transport Licence (ATL) and Airline Operating Permit (AOP) with a valid Air Operator Certificate (AOC) are authorized to conduct charter operations.

He also stated that NCAA will cease offering services to all debtors, who have refused to payment the NCAA and federal government monies owed them, noting that almost all airlines are guilty of this.
Nigerian airlines are currently indeed to NCAA in billions of naira.

He also said the NCAA is committed towards simplified certification and licensing processes as this will ensure ease of doing business.

Najomo further stated that one of his 2024 projects is to Ensure improved staff welfare, training, retraining and reorientation of staff.

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Aviation

NDLEA Arraigns SAHCO Manager, 7 Staff For Aiding Drug Trafficking

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An Assistant General Manager of Skyway Handling Company (SAHCO), Olajide Ahmed Kafidipe, and seven other staff of the company, were today, arraigned before a Lagos Federal High Court, on charges bordering of conspiracy, unlawful importation and possession of 1, 440.90 kilograms of Tramadol.

Olajide and others were arraigned before the court presided over by Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu, by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

The seven staff of the company arraigned alongside Olajide were; Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele; Musa Mutalib Opeyemi; Sanamo Alla Daniel; Anuge Evans Isibor; Mahmud Agboola Musa; Udeh Felix and Obinna Henry.

The prosecutor, Mr. Abu Ibrahim, while arraigning the SAHCO staff, told the court that all the defendants conspired with the trio of Mubarak Sarki Salami, Abdullahi Aliyu a.k.a Aboki and Anwal Monday, who also staff of the company but now at large, to commit the offences on or about October 25, 2023.

The prosecutor, Mr. Ibrahim further told the court that the Assistant General Manager of SAHCO, Olajide and other staff of the company, conspired amongst yourself to transport 1, 440.90 kilograms of Tramadol 225mg, a Narcotic, from SAHCO Import Shed.

The prosecutor also told the court that the SAHCO’s Assistant General Manager, Olajide, conspired with Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele, and procured one Lawal Itunu Temitope, to transport the prohibited substance from SAHCO Import Shed in a Mercedes Benz Bus with Registration Number LAGOS MUS 269 YC, belonging to Platinum Pacific International Limited.

He further informed the court that another staff of SAHCO, Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele, unlawfully possessed the said 1, 440. 90 kilograms of Tramadol 225mg, a Narcotic Analgesic.

The prosecutor told the court that the offences committed by the defendants, contravened sections 14 (b), 21 (2)(d) and 20 (1)(c) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Cap. N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. And punishable under sections 11 (b) and 20 (2)(b) of the same Act.

All the defendants denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Following their not guilty plea, the prosecutor asked the court for a trial date and also urged the court to remand them in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS), till the hearing and determination of the charge.

However, lawyers to the defendants, told the court that they have filed their clients’ bail application except that of the Assistant General Manager, Kafidipe Ahmed Olajide and Obinna Henry.

The lawyer therefore asked the court for a short date, to enable them file the bail applications for the duo.

With the development, the prosecutor, Mr. Abu Ibrahim, urged the court to remand all the defendants in NCoS’ custody till when the court will hear their bail applications.

But the trial judge, Justice Dipeolu, in his reasoning, order the operatives of the NDLEA to call their Airport Commander, to allow the defendants to be remanded in their custody till tomorrow, January 17, when their bail applications will be heard and determined.

Upon the complied with the court’s directive, which was granted by the Commander, the court ordered the remand of all the defendants in NDLEA till tomorrow, while adjourned to January 24, 2024, for the commencement of their trial.
Source: Ontimenews.com

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Tinubu Sacks Heads of Aviation Agencies, Asks EFCC to Investigate NCAA’s Financial Transactions

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In a move that has caught stakeholders in the Aviation sector unawares, President Bola Tinubu has approved the suspension, removal, and replacement of Chief Executive Officers under the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development

The Special Adviser to the President Media & Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale who made this known in a statement on Wednesday, said the leadership change is in line with the President’s determination to bring world class standards to Nigerian Civil Aviation in consumer protection and the promotion of the wellbeing of Nigerian passengers and other sectoral stakeholders.

Ngelale announced that the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Kabir Yusuf Mohammed has been removed from office and replaced with Mrs. Olubunmi Oluwaseun Kuku as the substantive Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

Also, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mr. Tayib Adetunji Odunowo has been removed from office and replaced with Engr. Umar Ahmed Farouk as the substantive Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), Engr. Akinola Olateru has been removed from office and replaced with Mr. Alex Badeh Jr. as the substantive Director-General of the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Prof. Mansur Bako Matazu has been removed from office and replaced with Prof. Charles Anosike as the substantive Director-General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency.

He further noted that the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Capt. Alkali Mahmud Modibbo has been removed from office and replaced with Mr. Joseph Shaka Imalighwe as the Acting Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), pending the appointment of a substantive Rector, in accordance with Section 13(2) of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Act, 2022.

Meanwhile, Ngelale announced that the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Shuaibu Nuhu has been suspended from office to enable the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct an unfettered investigation into the activities of the suspended Director-General and other senior officials in the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, adding that Capt. Chris Najomo assumes office as the Acting Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority immediately.

“Furthermore, President Bola Tinubu approves the commencement of a diligent process to be conducted by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development to recruit a substantive Vice-Chancellor and other principal officers of the African Aviation and Aerospace University (AAAU).

“The President anticipates that the new leadership across this critical sector will uphold the safety, convenience, and comfort of the Nigerian people as primary and sacrosanct in all of their administrative activities.

“Due to the high cost of underperformance in the sector, the President demands the immediate establishment of world-class policy design, implementation, and regulatory frameworks to reposition the sector in alignment with his Renewed Hope Agenda.

“All of the above-mentioned directives of the President take immediate effect”, he concluded

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