The leadership rift among domestic airlines under the auspices of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has been resolved out of court. Members also forged a common front to prevail on the Federal Government to drop the idea of kick-starting the national carrier project, Nigeria Air.
AON was initially broken into two factions, led by founder of Azman Airline, Abdulmunaf Yunusa, and chairman of Westlink Airlines, Ibrahim Kadafir Mshelia, respectively.
Both groups have been in court, as Mshelia challenged Yunusa’s leadership. But a press briefing by AON on Wednesday, revealed that the suit had been withdrawn to focus on their battle against the Nigerian government.
“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,” Yinusa told a group of journalists.
”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. 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.”
Mshelia also informed the press that he recognised the leadership of Yunusa as chairman of AON and Allen Onyema as Vice Chairman.
“You will recall that, in 2020, we had elections and some sections of AON were not satisfied. 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,” said Mshelia.
Explaining further, Mshelia stated, “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 Nigeria’s aviation does not leave us. We have withdrawn our case and our lawyers have concluded the process.”
AON members unite against Nigeria Air, Ethiopian Airlines
Meanwhile, Prime Business Africa had reported that AON is against the selection of Ethiopian Airlines as technical partner for Nigeria Air.
The domestic airlines said the partnership between Ethiopian Airline and FG will lead to loss of revenue and could hand the foreign operator more market share in the Nigerian aviation sector.
In a bid to severe the partnership, AON filed a lawsuit against them, and the court has ordered that FG and Ethiopian Airlines halt their agreement, pending when a decision would be taken on the issues raised by the local operators.
Speaking on unity of domestic airlines against the take-off of the Nigeria Air on Wednesday, AON said: “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.”