The pilot that flew the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, from Benin City to Lagos for the party’s rally held in Ibadan, Oyo State on Wednesday is under investigation for violation of safety procedures.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had grounded the private jet, with the registration number: 5N-HPY, which conveyed Obi and LP supporters to the event.
Airport sources told THEWILL that the pilot allegedly ignored the Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs), which warned it not to take off from Benin City due to the closure of the airport.
According to the source, who is very close to the regulatory body, the aircraft remains grounded while its pilot will be investigated for violation of safety procedures by the NCAA.
The source further hinted that the NCAA acted in line with the standard and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Despite the warning, it was learnt that the pilot (names withheld), took off from the airport, thereby contravening safety rules.
The source insisted that as the regulatory authority of civil aviation in the country, the NCAA has the responsibility to ensure a safe sky for the sector, stressing that it would not be dragged into politics by politicians.
The source also added that the NCAA has commenced investigation into the violation of safety rules by the pilot and may sanction him, if found wanting.
The source said, “The aircraft in question departed Benin Airport after it was closed. The pilot specifically ignored the instructions of the Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) 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 behaviour. 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.”
It would be recalled that the Labour Party’s media arm, Obi-Datti Media Office, on Wednesday condemned the alleged grounding of its campaign aircraft by the NCAA, a situation it said almost disrupted the event scheduled to take place in Ibadan.
The Head of Media, Obi-Datti Campaign Organisation, Diran Onifade had expressed surprise at the yet to be explained grounding of its campaign aircraft, saying the action led to the inability of the Labour Party and campaign officials, who had already gathered at the Lagos and Abuja Airports, to attend the Ibadan rally.
Diran said the development took the party by surprise, but that could not stop them from holding the rally as planned.
The statement reads, “The Obidient plane was grounded today by the powers that be “for regulatory reasons” only. Please ignore any mischievous rumour. Our massive rally in Ibadan is going on as planned.
“All we know is what the leasing vendor told us to the effect that the federal authorities won’t allow the Obidient Aircraft to file a flight plan, because of ongoing regulatory investigations.”
Meanwhile, the NCAA is the regulatory body for aviation in Nigeria. It became autonomous with the passing into law of the Civil Aviation Act 2006 by the National Assembly and assent of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Act not only empowers the Authority to regulate Aviation Safety without political interference, but also to carry out oversight functions of Airports, Airspace, Meteorological Services, etc as well as economic regulations of the industry.
Civil aviation being a critical element in Nigeria’s transportation system and indeed, its economy, the NCAA regulates the entire aviation industry.