From the Wright brothers to Ezeugwa

Book review

Title: Aviation LAW and PRACTICE in Nigeria

Author: Ugo Ezeugwa

Editor: Princeton & Associates

Hardcover: ISBN 978-978-58907-8-5

Number of pages:: 1020

Year of publication: 2021


Is the flight completed? I believe the answer is ‘yes’, at least in Nigeria. Proof of this is the excellent book by Ugo Ezeugwa – Aviation Law and Practice in Nigeria, which was recently launched at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos. In case you’re wondering if this view isn’t just a hype, take a quick peek at its contents. “Oh my!” You will surely exclaim, I bet – with admiration; I guarantee it. Such is the magnitude of the effort and the industry that the author has invested in it.

In its 22 or so chapters – divided into three main parts – the book effortlessly and expertly explores an area marked by its obscurity. Yes, aeronautical law is little known, even to lawyers (including its practice); and yet its mastery is a seed that must be sown, for it could be the difference between avoiding loss and repairing in the event of an accident – God forbid.

So, knowing that ignorance is bliss, we must embrace Ugo’s book and savor it voraciously; make it a valuable asset in our library and adopt its message quite like ours, not only in our professional vocation but, for ourselves and our families, friends, relatives and associates because, given its subject, we are all the same!
Suffice it to say that the value of travel and air travel is evident beyond all guesswork, especially in those regions where near miss incidents and actual accidents in the aviation industry (both civil and military) have caused great loss and suffering in every conceivable measure: human, material and financial.

Therefore, in offering industry guides, the more should be the happier. However, I assure you, in the case of Ugo’s book, you don’t need to look any further! Believe me, it is so good. Like I said earlier, let’s soap it up, or better yet, let’s do it together.

Content of the book: The chapters

Starting with the first chapter, the introduction, which provides the historical context and foundation for the meaning of aviation and its origin, including its legal framework and sources.

Chapter two examines the evolution of air carrier liability regulations from the first – the Warsaw Convention – to existing agreements and protocols.

The third chapter is local. He disentangles the law of air carriers in Nigeria, encompassing (once again) the Warsaw Convention and its successor, and their domestication, the latter being the entire subject of Chapter Four, starting with the exclusivity of his regime, its scope, qualifying subjects and application.

Chapter five of the book deals with the documentation required by air cargo shippers and others as well. As for Chapter Six, its subject matter – the death or injury of air passengers – is probably of compelling interest to everyone, whether they are actual / intentional passengers or not, we all want to know our rights in case of plane crash. Everything is revealed in this chapter. In both scenarios – international and domestic transport – everything is covered with admirable detail and every possible nuance.

In contrast, chapter seven deals with air cargo / baggage and its entire legal regime in the event of destruction, loss or damage, including compensation and limits of liability.

Chapter eight is a kind of continuation of chapter seven. But, it deals with the delay in the delivery of cargo or passenger baggage, and its legal consequences in contractual and tort matters, of which chapter nine is devoted, including their application in aviation – the whole range (from concepts to remedies).

Still on contracts, this time more specifically, chapter ten is devoted to common aviation contracts, of which Ugo identifies at least seven – between carrier and passenger, as well as others; from fleet maintenance, finance and leasing, ground support / warehousing to fuel supply / catering, shippers and freight forwarders.

Chapter 11, which deals with the continuation of the trend, isolates, for a more detailed treatment, one of the sub-elements of chapter ten, namely the financing and leasing of aircraft. Everything related to their documentation and collateralisation is discussed, including insolvency, bankruptcy, insurance recovery and tax matters.

The twelfth chapter focuses on responsibility. That is, operators of the civil aviation industry. It discusses the role of local regulators, such as NCAA, NAMA and FAAN vis-à-vis operators – in particular, their rights and duties, including those of manufacturers and sellers of aircraft parts; aircraft maintenance services / surface vehicle operators, ground assistance, airport security, etc.

Chapter 13 is a natural progression from Chapter 12, as both are a study of contrasts. Unlike the first, the second deals with tort, essentially collateral damage inflicted by aircraft on people or property belonging to third parties on their flight path (in flight or on the surface).

The next chapter, which deals with aviation insurance, is as comprehensive as it gets, just as well – it must be said, also explains protection against loss or damage caused or resulting from all flights except military. Yes, insurance is a legal requirement in an industry with enormous risks.

Chapter 15 deals with negotiations, which generally relate to claims in aircraft accidents. It includes tips for parties – especially on settlements – which the author recommends as a preferred option. Chapter 16 is similar to its predecessor. It deals with complaints from cabin crew and pilots in the event of air accidents. Their options are examined – including remedies.

The next chapter is arguably the most interesting for the audience. It is aptly called: “Consumer protection for air passengers”, and it takes everything in its wake: unforeseen events, legal / regulatory frameworks; applicable measures, redress mechanisms; obligations of carriers and passengers – the lot in terms of supervision.

Chapter 18 is the most relevant because its subject – “Civil Aviation Regulation” – should be music to the ears of the public. It contains everything the law deems necessary to assure passengers that they care, whether on the ground or in the air; all designed to ensure that the impact of the subject matter of Chapter 19 – “Air Accidents” – is virtually infinitesimal. And, when they do occur, are properly handled.

This leads perfectly to chapter 20, the subject of which – “aviation crimes” – are sometimes responsible for air accidents. They include damage to an aircraft in flight, unruly / indecent passenger behavior, damage to airport facilities, hijacking / terrorism, etc. and their countermeasures.

The penultimate chapter, that is, chapter 21, could not be more topical.

It deals with Covid-19 and its legal dimensions, vis-à-vis the aviation industry, whose impact (despite its supposed panacea – vaccines) has been quite simply catastrophic. It caused massive unemployment, disrupted well-established plans and agreements, and forced everyone to go back to the drawing board for new ideas – think outside the box.

The book ends with the particular area of ​​the lawyer – litigation! In connection with aviation, of course. Here, the author is completely in his element, so much his treatment of the subject is without equal. From his expert reviews and prescriptions, he leaves no doubt about his knowledge of his onions – obviously, the result of practical experience gained over the years.

Well done to Ugo

So, well done to Ugo, for walking boldly where few have ventured. Yes, because it is technically difficult. Its presentation style is so fluid and sequential that it mimics the ideal takeoff and landing that every airline passenger and crew member dreams of! This shows that he has mastered the field, on which he writes so eloquently, in more ways than one. The book is certainly a safe bet!

By the way, just in case you’re intrigued by the title of this piece, the Wright Brothers were pioneers in aviation, whose self-built aircraft (the Wright Flyer) is widely credited with having performed the first flight supported by a heavier plane – more than a century ago – in 1903, to be precise. So the origin, if it is necessary to know it, of the brilliant treatise of Ugo!

Abubakar D. Sani

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