The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, clashed at the Senate on Monday when the operators solicited for the inclusion of their members on the board of the National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The Minister and the AON representative, Chinasa Unaegburam, clashed at the opening of a three-day public hearing on the six executive bills meant to reorganise and restructure the six agencies in the aviation sector for efficiency and growth.
Unaegburam had suggested an amendment to Section 5 of the NCAA Act to make provisions for AON members on its board.
She said, “They (AON) are people who are operating the airlines and they can give a perspective of policies.
“If we have a member of AON on the board, we can give a perspective particularly in the instance where the NCAA is going to be the sole regulatory body.
“If there is a member from AON, it is not going to change the policy but it is going to give an insight from the operator view.
“We are moving forward so we want to move the sector forward. It is something that we should consider.”
The AON also sought an amendment to Clause 23 of the NCAA Act, seeking a reduction of the 5 per cent contract and service charge.
She also sought the removal of the two-year imprisonment on non-remittance of charge as contained in the proposed NCAA bill under consideration.
Trouble started when the Aviation Minister interjected and told the gathering that the AON could not speak on the occasion because there is a litigation it was battling with in court.
Members of the AON at the forum disagreed and shouted that they were not in court.
The Vice-Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Bala Ibn Nallah, however, doused the tension.
Sirika, however, said members of the AON have been making things difficult for the sector as a result of their huge indebtedness.
The Minister said, “We have concerns and they are very genuine. NCAA operates on a cost-recovery basis. They (AON) are owing us $6.9m and another N19.3bn. We are here so we get a very robust Civil Aviation Act.”
Members of the committee cautioned the Minister and urged him to allow stakeholders to express their views.
The panel chairman, Smart Adeyemi said, “This is a forum where each stakeholder should be able to express exactly what they think it should be.
“I am sure you know you cannot be a judge in your own case.”