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‘Obidients Grounded Aircraft: NCAA Changes Tune, Moves To Sanction Pilot for ‘Disregarding Airport Closure Warnings’

Two days after the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said it grounded the ‘Obidients Campaign Aircraft’ because it found the aircraft “not airworthy to go back to service,” the aviation agency changed gear, saying that the pilot might be sanctioned for the violation of safety procedures.

The pilot in command (name withheld) had airlifted the Labour Party (LP) Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, from Benin to Ibadan airports on Wednesday, November 23, 2022.

Sources told THISDAY that the pilot took off from the Benin airport at the point the airport was under closure and therefore ignored the directive from the Air Traffic Control (ATC).

The aircraft with registration number, 5N-HPY that was under charter service was said to have ignored the directive of ATC and this has prompted NCAA to commence investigation to confirm why the pilot in command ignored ATC warning.

But a source with the Obidients Movement said that the stand of the NCAA is contradictory as if they went fishing for reasons to ground the aircraft.

Said he: “This is contradictory to the earlier statement issued by the authority on Wednesday, when it explained that the aircraft could not proceed on further flights because, after inspection by the internal technical personnel of the airline operating the aircraft, it found the aircraft not airworthy to go back to service.”

Specifically, on Wednesday, the General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, collaborated the above assertion as he had sent SMS message and exonerated NCAA from the grounding of Labour Party charter aircraft.

He had explained that the aircraft could not proceed on further flights because after inspection by the internal technical personnel of the airline operating the aircraft, it found the aircraft not airworthy to go back to service.

 “I understand NCAA didn’t ground any aircraft today. The aircraft said to be grounded is a mere sensationalism. The reason being that the flight crew made an air return soon after take-off and they had an issue they needed to come back and correct.

“This is what is termed as safety precautionary flight. Let us be careful not to drag NCAA into politics in its operations. Our mandate is to ensure the safety of all aircraft operating in Nigeria airspace, regardless of whom they carried,” Adurogboye said.

But a source in NCAA confirmed on Thursday that the aircraft with Labour Party on its livery would remain grounded until after the investigation.

Reacting to the allegation that the authority wanted to disrupt the movement of the LP Presidential candidate, the NCAA source insisted the regulatory agency was apolitical and would not be dragged into political matters by politicians, saying that it adheres strongly to best industry standards as recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Said the source: “The aircraft in question departed Benin airport after it was closed. The pilot specifically ignored the instructions of the Air Traffic Controllers for the aircraft not to depart at that particular point in time because the airport was closed.

“As a regulatory agency, the NCAA cannot condone this kind of behavior. We are going to investigate the matter. Everyone must obey instructions. This is a very sensitive sector that deals with human lives.

“Even Mr. President’s pilots obey instructions. Why should anyone act above the law? The aircraft remains grounded. We are investigating the violation.”

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