Two years after it was afflicted with leadership crisis, the Airline Operators of Nigeria AON have finally resolved their differences and agreed to continue to defend Nigeria’s pride in international aero-politics. The development came as the operators again restated their opposition to the structural composition of Nigeria Air which they insisted is not a “national carrier” but a “flag carrier”. There is nothing Nigerian in Nigerian Air. The moratorium given to the airline is toxic to other local airlines. We want them to be like us so that we compete on equal grounds. It’s not government owned, else why does the government have 5 percent”, said Dr Obiora Okonkwo, Chief Executive Officer of United Nigeria Airlines. The resolution of the two-year old leadership crisis followed the withdrawal of a suit challenging the current leadership of the union headed by Dr. Abdulmunaf Yunusa, President of Azman Group as well as the Chairman/CEO of Air Peace Airlines, Barrister Allen Onyema.
Speaking in Abuja, Dr. Yunusa said “we have settled our differences and now we have come together to work for the best interest of the sector and the country. We are one family and even at home, we can have differences but from now on, we are together. We will work together for our country”. On his part, leader of the now dissolved faction and Chairman, Westlink Airlines, Capt. Ibrahim Kadafir Mshelia, who confirmed the withdrawal of the litigation, said the decision was premised on the spirit of patriotism to save the industry from collapse.
He said “you will recall that in 2020 we had elections and some sections of AON were not satisfied and I happened to be the leader of that faction that was not satisfied. But over the period, as the case moved on, we realized that we could settle our differences out of court. That is what we have done. I have come to be part of the original AON and there is no division in the industry. On behalf of my team, I recognize the Chairman and President of Azman and the President of Air Peace as the chairman and vice chairman of AON. We are now in agreement with ourselves. The faction that was not happy before, is now very happy with the leadership of the AON. I want to announce to my faction that the disagreement has now been resolved and we are strong together now. We are here to defend the industry.
“We are here to ensure that the sovereignty of the Nigerian aviation does not depart us. We have withdrawn our case and our lawyers have concluded the process”, he added. On the issue of a national carrier, the operators said; “A lot of us have invested our lives in this industry and we will not at this point in time shirk in our responsibility and allow individuals to have their overriding interests over and above a national interest. “This is for emphasis. We are not here defending our businesses, we are defending a country. When individuals come together and say they are putting together something for a country. Let us it see as that and not using the country for personal interest. Our fight is to ensure that the right thing is done for anything that has to do with a national carrier for the benefits of Nigerians and not particularly ourselves. We are not afraid of competition. New airlines come on daily basis, we haven’t gone to court to say why are you coming to business. What we are saying is this, Nigerian Air current form and structure, is designed to kill the industry. Not for our benefits, not for the consumers but for the benefits of some individuals. We are here to say that, it is not right and we will fight to make sure that anything that is required to stop it is done. That is our position”.