The Federal Government has penalised a British airline, Flairjet, for operating commercial flights into Nigeria without approval at a time when the nation’s airports have been closed as part of measures aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made the sanctions known on his twitter handle on Sunday.
He said the airline contravened section 1.3.3 of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations 2015.
Sirika said the airline’s “callous misdemeanor” has been reported to the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority, and other British bodies.
“Flairjet was found to violate our Civil Aviation Regulations IS 1.3.3(a) Table 2(IV)7(a) and IS 1.3.3 (a) Table 2(VIII)(4). The maximum penalty for each is N500,000:00K. We caused them to pay and reported their callous misdemeanor to UK CAA, MFA and the UK High Commission,” the minister tweeted.
Part of the NCAR referred to stated, “Any person, other than a person conducting an operation in commercial air transport or international commercial air transport, who violates any provision of the Civil Aviation Act, these Regulations, or any order issued thereunder, is subject to a civil penalty imposed by the Authority in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Aviation Act and these Regulations.”
Other sub-sections added that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority can issue a “Warning Notice” or a “Letter of Correction” which states its decision and the necessary corrective actions.
The pilots of the aircraft, a Legacy 600 with registration number GPRFX, were quarantined for 14 days while the aircraft was impounded on May 17.
The company had applied for humanitarian flights but was caught operating commercial flights into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
“This company applied severally as to operate humanitarian flights and we did approve. It is very clear at the beginning of this exercise that we defined what those flights should be: essential flights basically – cargo, medical evacuation, medical supplies, and so on and so forth.
“Unfortunately, this company decided to become commercial in their service, charging money and flying people in and out.
“In the first place, the whole essence of a lockdown is to ensure there is no movement of persons freely because this COVID-19 we are all spending sleepless nights for happened because somebody travelled abroad. So, we believe this shouldn’t happen.
“The crew is British nationals. The pilots are subjected to 14 days quarantine at the moment while the investigation goes on. Whatever is there in our laws will be applied to the fullest,” the minister had said.