The Federal Government has directed aviation agencies to carry out an immediate investigation into why Aero Contractors used a ladder to disembark passengers after its chartered flight landed at the Bauchi airport.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, gave the directive after receiving several reports that the airline used a ladder to disembark passengers from a Boeing 737 aircraft at the Bauchi airport on Saturday.
The flight, which had 34 passengers onboard, took off from Abuja and the travellers boarded without any problem, but trouble started after it landed in Bauchi.
Aero had explained that the passengers had to use a ladder to disembark because of the unserviceable equipment of the airport management used for disembarking travellers from flights.
The airline had said, “A special charter flight, operated by Aero to Bauchi, had problems with unserviceable equipment by the airport management in disembarking about 34 passengers from Abuja. Consequently, against the airline’s wish and operational safety guideline, the passengers used a ladder to disembark.
“However, at the time of boarding, the air stairs were functional and the passengers boarded successfully. Aero wishes to state that it took adequate and safety measures for this operation, including the airport’s ground staff, to handle the air stairs equipment in Bauchi. Unfortunately, it became unserviceable at the point of disembarking.”
But Sirika, in a statement by the aviation ministry, said the act was inconsistent with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations and International Civil Aviation Organisation Standards and Recommended Practices.
The investigation, he said, would determine the immediate and remote causes of the incident with a view to developing and implementing measures that would prevent a recurrence of the “unsafe and unacceptable procedure” that exposed passengers to high risk of serious injury.
He stated that if the airline was found culpable, it would be heavily sanctioned.
Sirika assured air travellers that the Ministry of Transport in collaboration with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority would ensure strict adherence to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations as well as ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices by all operators.
The minister added that he would not relent in his responsibility to ensure a safe and secure air transport services, which he viewed as sacrosanct.
Meanwhile, in a reaction on Sunday, the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company, distanced itself from the Bauchi airport, saying it was not responsible for the airline’s ordeal.
A statement by NAHCO spokesperson, Tayo Ajakaye, stated that though Aero did not mention NAHCO or any ground handling company in its explanation, the company’s position was to clarify insinuations in some quarters that NAHCO was supposed to have provided the equipment.
He said NAHCO’s operation did not cover the Bauchi airport at all.
The statement partly read, “The attention of NAHCO has been drawn to reports on the social media that it was its failure to provide handling service to Aero that caused passengers to disembark with a ladder at the airport.
“Nothing can be farther from the truth. NAHCO does not have operations in Bauchi. This fact is known to Aero and all our client airlines. So, for Aero to embark on that chartered flight to Bauchi, it definitely would have made private arrangements.”