By Lawani Mikairu
LAGOS— BARELY 24 hours after Aero Contractors suspended its operations indefinitely and sent its workers on compulsory and indefinite leave, another airline, First Nation, has announced the indefinite suspension of its operations.
Meanwhile, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE; Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association, ATSSSAN, and National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, yesterday, took over the premises of Aero at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Muhtar Usman, who announced the suspension, said First Nation was in the middle of an engine replacement programme for one of its aircraft.
Usman said: “The First Nation Airlines, on its part, is in the middle of an engine replacement programme for one of its aircraft. Another aircraft is due for mandatory maintenance as its allowable by the regulatory authority.
“In these circumstances, these airlines clearly cannot continue to undertake schedule operations, hence the inevitable recourse to self regulatory suspension.”
First Nation has been using only three planes for its operations, and with two out for mandatory maintenance, the airline is forced to suspend its operations.
Confirming the suspension of First Nation Airline operations, yesterday, Managing Director of the airline, Mr. Kayode Odukoya, said: “First Nation is currently undergoing maintenance on A319 fleet. This maintenance exercise will be completed on or before September 15, 2016. The airline planned this maintenance action well ahead, notified passengers and flights are currently loaded online effective September 15, 2016.
“This will ensure that passengers continue to enjoy safe and reliable service that the airline is reputed for. Current foreign exchange constraint, coupled with over 70 percent devaluation of Naira partly contributed in no small measure to the development. The airline’s plan remains on track to reinstating service as advised herein.”
This is not the first time First Nation is suspending flight operations. The airline, which launched services in 2011, suspended its operations in June 2012 shortly after the crash of Dana Air aircraft in Lagos on June 3, 2013, because of problems with serviceability.
Aviation unions take over Aero office
Meanwhile, aviation union workers as well as staff of the defunct airline, as early as 6.30a.m, marched on the airline’s corporate headquarters, chanting protest songs.
The unions said they would meet with the airline’s management to discuss the exit plans for their members, saying it would be unfair if members were left high and dry.
Clarifying the present state of the airline, its Media Consultant, Mr Simon Tumba, said: “Aero only suspended scheduled operations, while the Rotary Wing (helicopter and Dash 8 charter) and MRO are still in operations.”
But at press time, no staff of the rested airline was in the office as the aviation union members were chatting solidarity songs in front of the office.