The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), has urged the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to investigate a commercial airline, Arik, for allegedly endangering passengers lives and violating safety rules.
In a petition signed by CSNAC's chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju and forwarded to the aviation authority, the coalition said it gathered from sources within the aviation industry that the airline is committing a variety of illegalities by encouraging its pilots to ignore regulations, among others.
Taking its cue from the report of an online newspaper, SaharaReporters of 24th of October 2016, where it was revealed how Arik Airline endangers its passengers lives as well as violating aviation safety rules.
CSNAC said the report also disclosed that the troubled airline, Arik Airline, gambles with the lives of its passengers through illegal practices of paying pilots $200 to exceed the maximum number of landings permissible by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
The maximum number of landings approved by NCAA is seven, but Arik forces its pilots to make eight and pays $200 to have their duty time extended to 20 hours.
CSNAC said further that: "It was also revealed that some of Arik airline pilots have been found drunk on duty. In June, Arik Safety Manager, Captain Jide Bakare, according to the Newspaper's source, was pulled aside on a flight to London to be tested for alcohol by Dr. Tunji of Kupa Hospital, Ajao Estate, Lagos and the test returned a positive result.
"According to the paper, Captain Bakare was replaced on the flight by an Indian pilot and no action was taken against him because he is married to the sister of the airline’s Deputy Managing Director. Rather, he was simply told to go for rehabilitation.
"It was confirmed that not every pilot gets this type of treatment. There are instances when some Arik Airbus pilots had an incident; Captain Bakare headed the panel that investigated the circumstances of the mishaps, the report of which is shielded from the NCAA".
CSNAC also raised another issue of illegality committed by the airline from the report as relates to the Tech Log.
"Legally, only approved engineers can clear the Tech Log, not pilots. But when Lufthansa engineers went on strike because they were not paid, SaharaReporters learnt that Arik illegally forced pilots to sign off the Tech log for the airline's planes to fly."
According to the report, when crew members are ineligible to fly, the airline forces them to fly, thereby breaking flight time limits (forcing the crew to fly above their limits is an invitation to fatigue and accidents). It was discovered that when some crew challenged this, the Chairman was said to have barred them from international flights for two years, as a sanction.
It was also discovered that there are other torrid, less than dignifying conditions allegedly imposed by the Chairman in which Nigerian pilots are reduced to cleaning aircraft in the fleet.
"Furthermore, it was revealed how the staff of the airline at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) in Lagos, have not been promoted in eight years. Pensions and taxes of the airline's staff are similarly not remitted, and benefits are ignored. According to the newspaper's source, the workers are entitled to flight tickets at a discounted price of N150,000, but such are given out as gifts to friends of the top guns at the airline.
"SaharaReporters also disclosed that staff in the catering department affirmed that Arik takes meals for New York flights in cargo hold from Lagos because of its huge debts owed food vendors in New York. The meals are usually rancid after the long flight but are still served to passengers.
"Consequently, passengers are said to regularly complain of food poisoning. At some point, no food was served to passengers on a flight from London due to the huge debt owed a catering company in London by the airline. "
In the newspaper report, it was further revealed that at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, staff are told to make money at all costs and are often ordered to close the check-in counter before the approved time.
"This way passengers are prevented from check-in and charged for no-show and ticket change. The report revealed how the airline’s ticket sales staff are also forced to keep selling tickets even when flights are full, thereby causing chaos during boarding, with passengers scrambling to get on board.
"Thus, a staff pleaded that the NCAA, Nigerian Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate the activities of Arik and its many unsafe practices.
"The airline’s operations are regularly affected, causing passengers undue hardship and resources loss, by aviation fuel shortage because the airline finds it difficult paying for fuel. The frequent fuel shortages in official spiel are dressed up as “operational reasons.”
"Because of this, it is expedient that NCAA takes a quick action in tackling this situation as passengers' (citizens and foreigners) lives are in endangered by this violation of laid down rules and laws.
" We shall be most grateful if the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority treats this petition with the urgency it deserves," CSNAC said.