Hundreds of passengers have been stranded following the grounding of Azman Air by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Tuesday.
Before the decision to ground it, Azman was the leading airline in northern Nigeria, flying thousands of passengers across the region and beyond.
It also had solid roots in some states in the South, especially Lagos, which is a beehive of activities for businessmen and technocrats from Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, among others.
With the suspension of its operation, the airline has announced the cancellation of all its flights between Tuesday, March 16, and Friday, March 19, leaving many passengers who have bought tickets stranded.
Azman’s routes in the North included Kano, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Gombe and Birnin Kebbi. The airline had also flown passengers to Benin, Owerri and Asaba in Delta State.
Altogether, the airline operated 15 flights daily and all of them had been affected by Tuesday’s suspension.
Daily Trust reports that while there are other airlines like Air Peace, Aero Contractors, Max Air and Arik Air operating northern routes, Azman was about the only airline with footprints in most of the northern routes.
Some Azman passengers who spoke to Daily Trust yesterday said the development would aggravate their problems, considering the lingering insecurity in the North, which makes travelling by road a tough decision.
Besides, there were fears of job losses following the closure of the airline.
Why Azman was asked to stop flying
The NCAA, which is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring airlines, said it grounded Azman Air because of safety reasons.
Daily Trust reports that earlier on Tuesday, the airline had taken to its Twitter page, saying it was suspending its operations due to a safety audit by the NCAA.
But it later turned out that it was the NCAA that grounded the Kano-based aviation company following a series of incidents involving its aircraft, resulting in intermittent disruption of operations.
It was learnt that the NCAA arrived at the decision to suspend the airline after its management meeting on Monday.
The director-general of the NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, who announced the suspension in a statement, said the decision followed a series of incidents involving the airline’s Boeing 737 aircraft and in pursuant to Section 35 (2) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, and Part 18.104.22.168 (A) of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) 2015.
He stated, “The suspension is to enable the authority conduct an audit of the airline to determine the root causes of the incidents and recommend corrective actions to forestall reoccurrence.
“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority will continue to ensure compliance to its regulations in the interest of safety, and view any violation seriously.’’
We were not fairly treated – Azman
In a statement by its Accountable Manager, Alhaji Muhammad Hadi AbdulMunaf, Azman yesterday asked the NCAA to lift the suspension “in line with the established precedent in respect of other airlines that had similar incidents/experiences in the past.”
The airline explained that the NCAA had earlier invited them to a zoom conference on Tuesday afternoon, but the issue of suspension was not discussed.
It said that during the meeting, attempt was made by the chief host (Ajiboye, an engineer) to link the Azman aircraft wheel burst in Lagos on February 16 with a Kaduna wheel burst of flight 5N-YSM, which occurred on Monday, March 15.
According to the airline, the NCAA and AIB had cleared Azman Air to continue its operations after the incident.
It added, “Also, the incident that happened with regard to an object falling from aircraft 5N-SYS has technically been investigated and cleared by the NCAA, with a sanction to Azman Air and the staff from Azman Air in Abuja on March 8, 2021.
“But the Kaduna incident has not been investigated; therefore, there is no link between the previous incident in Abuja or Lagos with it. Accordingly, without prejudice, the NCAA used its power to write the suspension of Azman operations, not based on fact.
“The management, therefore, humbly requests that Azman Air suspension should be lifted, firstly in line with the established precedent in respect of other airlines that had similar incidents/experiences in the past. This is particularly necessary in the interest of justice, fairness and fair play,’’ the statement added.