The Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt Musa Nuhu said it is solely the duty of the captain of an aircraft and the airline to check that the fuel they get is not contaminated, just as the aviation agency has commenced a full-blown investigation into unraveling the circumstances that made nearly a drum of water to be found in the fuel tank of a Max Air’s B737 airplane in Yola, Adamawa State.
This is as the NCAA had set up a meeting with the airlines’ representative body, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) with a view for them to testing the quality of fuel they dispense into their aircraft tanks, warning that at the end of the investigation, it won’t fail to punish severely MAX Air or the oil marketer should either of them is found guilty of the contamination.
“We are going to review all the marketers and withdraw their licence to sell jet fuel if we find them wanting. If the problem is from MAX Air, we will take appropriate action and if it is from the oil marketer, we will also take appropriate action as well”.
Nuhu, in a hurriedly put together virtual meeting with aviation correspondents late Thursday to inform the public of the steps taken to get to the root of the ‘embarrassing’ incident, said, “It is the responsibility of the airline and the captain of a flight to check that the fuel he gets is free of contamination.”
He disclosed that the aircraft was grounded after it was ferried to Kaduna from Yola where the discovery was made, stressing that the regulatory body had started working with Max Air, the marketer that supplied the fuel to the airline and to check if there was culpability of poor storage by the fueller.
Nuhu further stated that immediately after the incident came to the knowledge of the NCAA, it dispatched its inspectors to Yola, and started an investigation over a week ago when the incident occurred.
His words, “As a regulatory body, we could not take knee-jerk reaction. We swung into action to ensure that everything is rectified.”
Asked why the NCAA delays carrying out periodic audits on all the airlines to ensure that meet all regulatory specifications, Nuhu said airlines audit is a continuous process, stressing that his agency just audited most of the airlines, but noted that when an occurrence of the nature that happened to MAX Air happens, it leads to the agency refocusing again on audit.
“We have dispatched people to Max Air to audit the airline. We are investigating involving Air Peace and Azman. Investigation is ongoing”.
He said Azman had temporarily ceased operations and had not been operating domestically for a while because its aircraft had been ferried overseas for maintenance, saying, “When they come back, we will check their maintenance procedure and examine whether they went to one of the maintenance facilities accredited by the NCAA.”
The NCAA DG equally spoke on other issues ranging from the reported theft of the approach lighting of the 18/Left of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, astronomical fares charged by airlines operating to Nigeria, and the flight delays and cancellations which seem to have been the new normal in the country’s aviation industry.
Capt. Nuhu said the theft of the approach lighting at the Lagos airport was not only an embarrassment to the country but clearly shows a ‘lax in the system’ and ‘ that is the reason the approach light was stolen’.
On high fares, he said he had spoken to the airlines on the issue but quickly pointed out that the country missed the opportunity for cheaper air fares because the missed opportunity by keeping foreign airlines’ over $800 million, hinting that the trapped funds had hit over $1 billion.
He noted that the country’s action in keeping airlines’ trapped funds was a clear violation of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) the country had with countries in which airlines’ funds remain trapped.
He stated that the government was working toward resolving the issue, disclosing that very soon; outstanding money of the airlines will be a thing of the past.
He also noted that airlines are in business to make money, noting that their trapped funds affect seriously their bottom line and kill too.
“It will be a thing of the past and we will move on with our lives. If your currency is losing its value and the value of foreign currency remains, airfare will naturally be expensive for those buying in Naira”.
He noted that going forward, the NCAA will integrate the reason for flight delays in its subsequent reports of delays and cancellations, stressing that it is good to be fair to the airlines because not all flight delays and cancellations are caused by the airlines but maintained that on their part, the airlines too are culpable.