By Daniel Eteghe & Okebugwu Chinomnso
LAGOS — National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, yesterday, grounded all flights of Air Nigeria nationwide for sacking its Head of Maintenance Department, Mr. James Erigba.
Speaking to newsmen on the development, President of NAAPE, Mr. Balami David, said Erigba was sacked because he insisted that a particular aircraft was due for maintenance and should, therefore, go for maintenance. The management of the airline, however, tried to cut corners by insisting that the said aircraft should still carry out flight operations.
According to him, “Mr. James Erigba insisted that the aircraft must be in the hanger but the CEO, Mr. Kinfe Kahssaye or management was trying to look for a way to cut corner which is not acceptable to us. He insisted that the aircraft must go for maintenance but the CEO or management are trying to look for a way to cut corner which is not allowed.”
Balami said the management of Air Nigeria was toying with safety of passengers which was not acceptable in the aviation industry, noting that if safety was compromised many lives could be lost as accident was bound to happen in such situation.
He said: “They have 11 aircraft in all but only seven are air worthy but they want to fly 10 aircraft to include three aircraft that are not serviceable. So the engineers were against it and because of that they fired the Head of Maintenance, Mr. James Erigba.”
Air Nigeria confirmed last night that there had been disruptions to its flight operations due to a trade dispute with some aircraft engineers in its employment.
Spokesman for the airline, Mr. Sam Ogbogoro, said: “This dispute came about today as a result of a management change within the airline’s maintenance department, which did not result in anyone losing his job.”
“We have been informed that the Nigerian Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, had reacted to this change and raised other issues regarding the welfare of the engineers in the airline’s employment. All these have culminated in the airline’s engineers embarking on strike, causing significant disruptions of operations.
“We regret the inconveniences this recent dispute has caused our passengers and wish to assure that efforts are ongoing to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. In order to minimise the inconveniences, we have set up a refund process for passengers wishing to seek alternative arrangements for their travels.
“We would also like to assure our valued customers and the general public that at no point is the safety of passengers and crew compromised in the execution of the airline’s operations. The airline’s management has, however, expressed its willingness to discuss the issues raised by NAAPE, and it is expected that operations will resume soon. “
Efforts to get reaction from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, failed as its spokesman, Mr Sam Adurogboye, promised to issue a statement on it by failed to do so.