The Federal Government, Wednesday, joined eight other countries in the world to ban the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 planes by any airline operator in Nigeria airspace.
The Ethiopian Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane had on Sunday crashed a few minutes after take-off in Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people aboard, including two Nigerians.
But Air Peace Airline in a swift reaction, Wednesday, said the federal government’s order banning the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from flying in Nigeria’s airspace does not affect it since it had no such aircraft type in its fleet.
The airline currently has an order with Boeing Aircraft Manufacturing Company for 10 B737 Max 8 aircraft.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation, said Nigeria would not allow the use of B737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft until the cause of the plane crash in Addis Ababa was determined.
He said: “Regarding Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9, which has been in the news, there is no cause for alarm as there is no operator in Nigeria that is using that type of airplane.
“The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, whose mandate it is to issue advisory has already said nobody should fly into Nigeria or out of Nigeria using Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9, pending the determination of the actual cause of the crash in Ethiopia and also pending the outcome of the response of the manufacturer, which is Boeing.
“Regardless of the enormous safety records of this plane, it has caused concern in the world of aviation and you know aviation it is universal. Whatever affects one, affects the other because aircraft will be flying in and out.
“So, we have issued directive that no operator with Boeing 737 Max 8 or Max 9 should operate into and outside our airports and this is being carried out.
“Regarding Air Peace and Arik orders, whether those orders were confirmed or intent, it is to our knowledge in the ministry that they won’t be in the country until the next two years or so. And this is enough period to sort out whatever problem it is with that plane. The world of aviation will not be sleeping just as we in Nigeria will not be sleeping.
“It is normal standard practice that once a particular aircraft type is involved in accident back to back, it is withdrawn from the market and see if there is something they are doing wrong.”
He explained that if it was confirmed that there was a particular problem with the aircraft type, they will issue an instruction to ground such plane worldwide until the problem was fixed.
“So, this case is not different. We pray for the souls of the departed and pray that the industry will continue to be safe and secure. We promise you that we are alive to our own responsibility which is to secure lives and property as a government,” the minister added.
He stated that three memos were presented to FEC from the Ministry of Transportation and Aviation yesterday, which were approved.
He said the first one was the approval of N529 million for the supply and installation of X-ray machines, cargo scanners and walk-through metal detectors at Enugu Airport, with a completion period of 12 weeks, while the second was approval for the upgrade and rehabilitation of the main in-take transformer, landing system and domestic underground 11KVA circuit at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport at N719,332,450 million.
Sirika said council also approved the award of contract for the procurement of security and safety projects at the nation’s airports Phase II, including the supply of extreme x-ray machines at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport at the cost of N4,530,955,500 billion.
He said N622 million variation was approved by FEC for the Minna Airport terminal building, which was abandoned since 2012 for lack of funding.
According to him, the installation of the equipment, he explained, was in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, standard, noting that before the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Nigeria’s score was 60 percent on security but that it was currently at 96.7 percent.
He said by May when the administration will be sworn in for its second term, Nigeria’s score would have risen to 98 percent in security and safety, according to ICAO.
The Aviation minister said council also approved the rehabilitation of Minna airport terminal building which had been abandoned for lacking of funding.
He said council also approved the variation in the sum of N622,544,326.17 for the completion of the airport in 12 months.
Meanwhile, Air Peace airline yesterday said the federal government order banning the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from flying in Nigeria’s airspace, did not apply to it, since there was no B737 Max 8 in its fleet.
Making the clarification in a telephone chat with Vanguard Wednesday, Air Peace Corporate Communication Manager, Mr Chris Iwarah, said the minister’s directives only confirmed the airline’s position that it was watching and monitoring the outcome of Ethiopia Airlines crash investigation and also does not currently fly Boeing 737 MAX 800 or any MAX series.
Iwarah further said the federal government order only affected foreign airlines operating into Nigeria with such aircraft type.
Air Peace had earlier in a statement, said: “The Management of Air Peace Airline has thought it imperative to clarify that Air Peace recently placed a firm order for 10 brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
”We are, however, yet to take delivery of the aircraft as we are still at the design and configuration stage of the order.
“This clarification has become necessary, in view of numerous calls and enquiries on our response to the incidents involving the B737 Max 8 aircraft.
”Although it is premature to comment on the accidents, we wish to assure members of the flying public that we are closely following and monitoring developments on the issue as an airline that prioritises the safety and well-being of our customers.
“While we keep engaging with our partners in this regard, we repose implicit confidence in Boeing and aviation authorities to capably and satisfactorily address all the issues if at the conclusion of ongoing investigations it is discovered that the challenge is with the B737 Max 8.”