Sosoliso Airline and the Aviation Sector:
When It Rains…
Atâyi Babs Opaluwah
The recent news that Sosoliso Airlines tendered fake Safety documents in pursuit of international certification in far away France is no doubt a sour one that calls for once again, deep introspection and a renewed intervention in our hopelessly ailing aviation sector.
According to the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), his French counterpart sent him a report containing documents and materials submitted to them by Sosoliso Airlines in their quest for international recertification from the French Civil Aviation Authority (DCA). The French Civil Aviation Authority, in the course of their investigations, contacted the American Air Safety Organisation, the Organisation which reportedly gave Sosoliso Airlines, a clean bill of health and a satisfactory remark on it’s safety equipments and standards. The French Authority discovered to their chagrin that the American Air Safety Organisation had no records whatsoever, containing or relating to clearing any Airline Company with the name SOSOLISO and as such, the documents tendered by Sosoliso Airlines were found to be fake and copiously forged to hoodwink the French Civil Aviation Authority into certifying them. The French Authority quickly forwarded their report containing the forged documents to the NCAA DG who in turn presented same to the Aviation Minister recently.
For an airline that is still grappling with the second suspension of its Air Operating Certificate within 15 months to be involved in yet another scam of international proportion is to say the least, disgusting and an avid show of disregard for decency and ethical conduct. It does confirm the fact that when it rains, it certainly pours as the Airline has hopped from one crisis to the other in its quest to provide aviation service to Nigerians. From the 2005 crash at the Port Harcourt Airport which untimely terminated the lives of 60 Angels of Loyola Jesuit College, Pastor Bimbo Odukoya and other notable Nigerians to the several near-crash near-death experiences it unleashes on its customers daily as well as the suspension of Air Operating Certificate which seems to have become an annual pastime, the company has continued to prove all bookmakers wrong about its capacity to learn from the mistakes and experiences of the past.
A sketch of what the company, Sosoliso Airlines stands for and represents in our aviation industry can only be seen in the light of its chequered history, utter disrespect for aviation standards, usage of bad tyres, little or no regard for customer service, and non-payment of insurance benefits (if any) to relatives of its numerous victims. Moreover, a flight experience with Sosoliso is never considered complete until the usual vigorous jerking, tumultuous turbulence and landing difficulties that have become unflattering trademarks of the airline, reminiscent of the phonetic turbulence that comes with the pronunciation of its name: SO-SO-LI-SO! These and many more make it imperative for one to question the rationale behind the continued existence of the airline as a corporate citizen in Nigeria what with its flagrant abuse of rules and constant rendezvous with infamy.
Worth recalling also is the response of Sosoliso Airlines’ Management to the revoking of its Air Operating Certificate by the Ministry of Aviation in November 2006. The Management regretted the suspension but went further to express an optimism that the airline had already signed up for the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Gap Analysis in a bid to ensure safe operations. Suffice it to say that this optimism was hinged on the infallibility of the forged documents which later turned out to be fallible as it escaped the eyes of NCAA Officials but couldn’t withstand the eagle-penetrative eyes of the French Civil Aviation Authority.
This also brings to the fore, the porous nature of the regulatory instruments of our aviation sector. The fact that it took the DCA for us Nigerians to know that the safety instruments being brandished by the suspended Sosoliso Airline are forged and have no correlation whatsoever with the International Civil Aviation’s safety requirements speaks volumes of the extent of value attached to sanctity of human lives by the regulatory agencies in our aviation sector. At this point, the following questions become pertinent: how many more airlines are busy flying Nigerians across the nation’s airspace with forged safety certifications? How many airlines are flying without safety equipments and standards? How many of them may have escaped the ordinary eyes of the NCAA officials? How long shall we continue to sacrifice our brothers and sisters on the altar of needless plane crashes/explosions for the benefit of a few undeserving ones? How long shall we allow the wanton greed and irresponsibility of a misguided few to cause us collective pain and misery?
The above scenario is symptomatic of the apparently endless string of ills bedevilling our aviation sector. Ranging from the systemic depletion of 30 functional aircraft in Nigeria Airways fleet, the misguided sale of Air Operating Certificates (AOCs) to companies with capacity for road transport, executive meddlesomeness, and to the reign of “musical chairs” in FAAN, NCAA, NAMA and Aviation Ministry, the story remains the same. If it is not a case of dysfunctional radars, it is faulty Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), or porous and potholed runways, cows on the runway, inaccessible control tower, inaccurate weather forecasting or better still airport closure due to VIP Movement and now fake safety certifications.
In spite of the foregoing, it wont be apposite to state that the diseased state of our aviation sector has defied solutions as it has only elicited spurious and obtuse solutions from persons whose mental capacities are way below the average demands of the sector but are being chaotically foisted on the beleaguered sector as Ministers, DGs, Directors and MDs. Year after year, the sector continues to wobble and fumble, held hostage by Professional Strangers whose legacies lie in the phenomenal rise in unwarranted plane crashes (and very recently, plane explosions) and the pride of place occupied by the country in the list of countries with high aviation accidents. Their impact exists comfortably in the burgeoning list of people who are now referred to as Aviation Widows and Orphans.
How did we get to this sorry pass? How did our aviation sector get to this incendiary state of affairs? The answers are not far-fetched: Unwillingness to do the right things in major situations; vindictiveness; evasiveness; deafness or refusal to take professional advice, failure to own up and apologise for glaring blunders and mishaps; fraud; greed; corruption; naivety; crudeness, absence of knowledge of what to do and lack of knowledge of how to do what is needed to be done, workplace arrangements in which the supervised and the supervisor are the same person; reluctance to adequately discipline error; deliberate wastage; inexplicable evilness; and clear-cut absence of sincerity of purpose.
It therefore behoves on the current Aviation Minister who may likely be the last person to oversee Aviation as a ministry independent of Transport, to wake up from his reverie of ministerial grandiloquence and inject action into postulations on strict insistence on standards, embarking on routine recertification exercises with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the judicious utilisation and channelling of the N19 billion intervention fund for the aviation industry into addressing the major inadequacies facing the sector as well pave way for the expected gains of the NCAA autonomy bill which President Obasanjo signed into law recently,
Atâyi Babs Opaluwah, (email@example.com)
Langue Consulting Ltd
58, Associated Estate
Impresit Camp – Abuja