From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) announced on Wednesday an end to its two years old leadership tussle between its factions. It said it has also resolved to forge a united front to save the industry.
The announcement followed the withdrawal of a suit challenging the current leadership of the union headed by Dr Abdulmunaf Yunusa, founder of Azman Airline and the President of Azman Group and Chairman/CEO of Air Peace Airline, Allen Onyema.
This is coming as the operators expressed readiness to explore every means available to ensure that the current structure and formation of the national carrier, Nigerian Air, which it said was “designed to kill” the country’s aviation industry, is stopped.
Addressing reporters at a press briefing in Abuja, Dr Abdulmunaf Yunusa, said the briefing was informed to announce to Nigerians and its members at all levels that both factions of the body have agreed to work together for the best interest of the country, to save the industry from collapsing.
“We are to tell you that 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,” he said.
“We don’t want anything to come and affect our industry and that’s why we are here to assure our members and the entire country that we are together and we don’t have any misunderstanding again.”
On his part, leader of the 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.
“You will recall that in 2020 we had elections and some sections of AON were not satisfied. And I happen to be the leader of that faction that was not satisfied. But over the period, as the case moved on, we realised that we could settle our differences out of court. That’s what we have done,” he said.
“I have come to be part of the original AON and there is no division in the industry. On behalf of my team, I recognise the Chairman and President of Azma 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 Nigerian aviation does not depart us. We have withdrawn our case and our lawyers have concluded the process.”
Meanwhile, members and the leadership of the group who took turns to speak at the briefing, have vowed to ensure that they fight the newly launched national carrier, believed to be owned by private investors not to succeed in crashing the aviation sector.
The Chairman of West Link Airlines; Chairman, United Nigerian Airlines, Professor Obiora Okonkwo, Allen Oynema, and others, shared lights on the current woes of the industry and expressed fears over the threat posed to the aviation sector in the country by Nigerian Air.
According to them, the current structure and formation of Nigerian Air, don’t reflect that of a national carrier.
“Besides the issues of the airlines coming together, I think what needs to be clarified for the sake of this industry.
“A lot of us have invested our lives in this industry and we will not at this point in time shelve our responsibility and allow individuals to have their overriding interests over and above national interest.
“This is for emphasis. We are not here defending our businesses, we are defending a country… Our fight is to ensure that the right thing is done for anything that has to do with a national carrier for the benefit of Nigerians and not particularly ourselves.
“We are not afraid of competition. New airlines come on a daily basis, we haven’t gone to court to say why are you coming to business. What we are saying is this, Nigerian Air’s current form and structure are designed to kill the industry. Not for our benefit, not for the consumers but for the benefit of some individuals.
“We are here to say that, it’s not right and we will fight to make sure that anything that is required to stop it is done. That is our position.”