Nigerian carrier Medview Airlines and the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) are at loggerheads over alleged breach of the terms of the contract for the airlift of pilgrims for the 2019 Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

At the root of the crisis is the decision of Medview Airline to reject NAHCON’s proposal to partner Flynas, a Saudi Arabian airline for the return leg of the pilgrims airlift from Saudi Arabia.

According to Medview, the NAHCON proposal did not only constitute a breach to an already existing partnership deal it entered into with Max Air, another Nigerian airline for the 2019 operation, but also amounts to economic sabotage on Nigeria.

Aside, leading to the discontinuation of Medview Airline from the 2019 hajj operation, the crisis has also spat a legal tussle by both parties with petitions sent to the presidency to wade into the matter.

Medview is alleging that the acting Chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Mukhtar, acted unilaterally in deciding that the airline partnered Flynas of Saudi Arabia and that the target was to frustrate Medview out of the pilgrims airlift operation.

The solicitor to Med-View, Barr Debo Adeleke, the principal lead counsel, Maritime, Commercial and Immigration Law Chambers, in an interview with aviation correspondent in Lagos, alleged that rather than allow Med-view to continue with the hajj exercise with its contractual agreement with Max Air, Mukhtar wanted to compel Med-view to put some of its pilgrims on Flynas, a Saudi Arabian airline, which it alleged the NAHCON boss had an interest in.

It said that Flynas, a foreign carrier, was “selfishly imposed on our client against the indigenous airline in the name of Max Airline,” stressing that the idea of forcing a foreign airline on the carrier was an act of economic sabotage and “a clear negation of the extant Federal government policies.”

In a letter with the reference number: MCILC/STFGN/NCBTAAB/01/19, dated August 5, 2019, and addressed to the Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief of Staff to the President and Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria, it complained of malice against the carrier.

But a source in NAHCON who wouldn’t want to be named however refuted the allegation explaining that the pilgrims agency acted in line with Saudi regulatory authority requirements that countries with pilgrims in excess of 10,000 should cede some of the passengers to a Saudi Arabian airline to also airlift and the Nigerian government is a signatory to the agreement.

Prior to the commencement of the pilgrim airlift, Med-view had already made down payment of $8,897,663.63 as the total contractual sum for the airlift of 5, 720 pilgrims on May 20, 2019, with First Bank as the guarantor.

The contractual agreement stipulated that on the execution of the contract, NAHCON would make 50 per cent payment to Med-view, which was supposed to be $4,448,831.08 to enable the airline to conclude all necessary arrangements for the commencement of the hajj operations.

Adeleke, the Med-view counsel is also alleging that NAHCON had breached the agreement by paying Med-view the sum of $2,412,539, which negated the 50 per cent in the contractual sum.

Before the airline was disallowed from continuing with the outbound exercise, it had already airlifted 4,383 pilgrims in five days of the exercise, with eight airlifts, according to NAHCON website.

A letter dated July 5, 2019, signed by Alhaji Muneer Bankole, the Chief Executive Officer, Med-view Airline and addressed to the Chairman, NAHCON, demanded the payment of $900,000 to be made available to General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and TAIBA, $400,000 and $500, 000, respectively.

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