The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) on Wednesday said that the three carriers disqualified from transporting Nigerian pilgrims for the 2016 Hajj were those not cleared by the Saudi Arabian aviation authorities.
Alhaji Mohammadu Goni, Head of Aviation of NAHCON, made this known at the commission’s Headquarters in Abuja while answering questions from newsmen.
He listed the affected airlines as Dornier Aviation Nigeria AEP Ltd; Top Brass and Azman Air Services.
The Federal Government had earlier approved six airline operators to transport intending pilgrims for the exercise.
Goni, however, said that the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia (GACA) cleared only three airlines out of the six nominated by the Federal Government.
He said the airlines approved by the Saudi authorities are: Med-View Airlines Ltd.; Max Air Ltd. and Fly-Nas Air (Saudi Arabian designated carrier).
Goni explained that only these three airlines were designated to fly the route between the two countries.
He said that NAHCON had made concerted efforts to ensure that Saudi Arabian Government allowed the three disqualified airlines to participate in the exercise, but to no avail.
He said that the commission forwarded the report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Aviation for diplomatic intervention, but that Saudi Arabia did not grant its request.
“In fact, a delegation was send to appeal to Saudi Arabian Authority to allow the three carriers fly their route but they insisted that those airlines must acquire designation status because they only applied as charter flights,“ he said.
Goni also said that it was a standing rule that all Hajj participating countries must abide by the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority’s condition in order to participate in the Hajj.
He said that it was clearly stipulated in GACA that any country participating in the Hajj must give 50 percent of its total pilgrims to Saudi airlines to transport them.
He said that GACA and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) were responsible for the technical analysis, clearance and inspection of airlines involved in Hajj operation.
Goni also said that GACA had sole responsibility of taking care of safety and economic regulations of the air carriers involved in transporting intending pilgrims.
He said that NAHCON had stated it clearly in the advertisement for application and screening of air carriers that it was subject to NCAA and GACA clearance.
“ We have a standing procedure for selecting airlines for transportation of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, starting from placement of advert on the commission official website and national dailies.
“ After we received applications and other necessary documents from interested carriers, then the commission would set up a 30-member Screening Committee involving different organisations to screen the airlines.
“ Members of the Committee will be drawn from NAMA, FAAN, NCIA, EFCC, ICPC, Ministry of Aviation and other relevant agencies.
“ Then the panel of the committee would adopt a screening template and agree on pass mark, which this year we agreed on 60 per cent benchmark,” Goni said.
He explained that nine airlines applied to transport pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, but that only six were qualified by the screening committee, after thorough examination.
The head of aviation further said that the committee, after screening, submitted the report to the management of NAHCON for consideration and endorsement.
“ After extensive deliberations, the Board of NAHCON, will transmit the report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for onward submission to the Presidency for final approval, “ he said.