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Recent appointments expose aviation underbelly



The recent appointments in some key agencies of the aviation sector, to say the least, are less than satisfactory. One would have thought that due diligence was done before some people were brought to man sensitive positions in a sector that is highly life dependent.

Not a few were wondering if these changes would bring desired results and make the sector better, or one that the Ministry of Aviation is pursuing to provide jobs for the ‘boys’. Could this possibly be the best the nation can offer or assemble to drive a sensitive sector like the aviation industry?

There are many questions than answers in these appointments; one that equally exposes the underbelly of the entire system. Nigerians hardly learn from history. The same thing was done during the tenure of Stella Oduah, except that Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, apply better caution by appointing some people from the system rather than over 300 outsiders the ex-minister flooded the sector with, most of which displayed sheer ignorance of what aviation entails.

It has brought to the fore insinuations in some quarters that many people get positions that they do not merit while many qualified professionals are not considered. It is beginning to show, rather early, that most of the directors in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) are round pegs in square holes.

More pathetic is saddling people with little or no experience with positions that make them a square peg in a round hole. Many of them looked lost in the dispatch of their duties.

How else can one explain the embarrassment that two top officials in NCAA a director and a female manager in Directorate of Air Transport Regulations-made a mess of the job they do when business jet operators and other stakeholders converged last week on the Eko Hotels to brainstorm on challenges plaguing that area of the sector. The event was Nigerian Business Aviation Conference.

The director, a retired military man that got the job less than two months, simply does not understand his role and embarrassingly parried questions that left many wondering how NCAA had degenerated in just a short period of time.

It was more pathetic as the panel, which comprised former Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, the duo from NCAA and globally-respected aviation consultant, Nick Fadugba, would have been shocked with the type of quality in the agency. Demuren, however, came to the rescue as he brilliantly saved the duo from further embarrassment, with Fadugba expertly helping them to wriggle out from the difficult situation.

Do not get me wrong. Not all the recent appointments in aviation are faulty. Some of the appointees have excelled and hit the ground running, while majority of them are still lost as to what their jobs entail.

To these group of persons, they are like fish out of water in the new roles they find themselves. It is a sector that is highly technical and should not be experimented with. Not all the appointments done by Sirika are bad.

Some have proven their mettle. Sirika got it right with the appointment of Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mr. Akin Olateru, NAMA MD, Capt Fola Akinkuotu and NIMET DG. Many others appear as misfit for the big positions they hold. The next few months will show whether these changes are in the best interest of the nation.

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Long road to national carrier



Anxiety mixed with uncertainty could best describe the slow pace of work to establish a national airline. WOLE SHADARE writes

Mission impossible?
Can Nigeria pull this through? Many are very desirous of a national airline for Nigeria but the slow speed of actualising the dream is beginning to dampen the spirit of many who thought by now, the issue of a national carrier would have been put to rest.
Just last weekend, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika rekindled hope that in the next couple of months, “we should be closer to having a national airline. He noted that the country was very close to getting a national airline.”
Luthansa project flops
The Lufthansa saga seriously looked as if the entire project had collapsed before it even took off, leading to insinuations in some quarters that the government was not serious about one of the key things it promised to do in 2015.
Lufthansa Consortium’s contract that was expected to mid-wife a national carrier was terminated with the government explaining that the decision was taken in the best interest of the nation.
The minister alleged that the firm changed the term of contract it had with the government by demanding that aside asking for 75 per cent of N341 million upfront payments, which he said was not in line Nigeria’s procurement law, also alleged that the firm wanted the money to be converted to Euros, which was also not acceptable to them.
His words, “What transpired at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, which I explained very clearly is that we substituted Lufthansa Consulting as part of the consortium to provide transaction advisory services for the establishment of a national carrier.
“The reason is very simple and clear. We thought that Lufthansa Consortium is an arm of Lufthansa Airline Group and this may compromise the process. They might be interested party latter in the day of this procurement and this may compromise the system. We want it to be transparent, as fair and equitable as it should be.
“They wanted about 75 per cent to be paid of the sum ab nitio and this is not in line with procurement laws. The contract was in Naira N341million but they wanted to change it Euros and this was not acceptable to us. This was neither in our request for proposal. What we did was there were many in the consortium; we substituted them with another company that is even fair, that is no appendage to any other company that might be interested. So, they are more of a neutral company to take over the place of Lufthansa “, he added.
Although, Lufthansa Consortium is yet to speak on the matter, a source close to the firm said it has a reputation that would not want to be tarnished because of the  way the Federal Government went about the whole bidding process which was less than transparent.
Many, who spoke to New Telegraph, said the failure of flag carriers in Nigeria has made the government to look inwards with a view to making air transport easier for the teeming Nigerian public who have been short-changed over the years with bad services, unreliable schedule and many other customer related problems.
Many flag carriers have collapsed over the years. Many do not know where to turn to. While the lamentation continues, foreign airlines have perfectly filled the void and providing seamless air travel needs to very mobile populace.
While airline collapses have become commonplace with Aero and Arik going under during the past few years, the loss of flag carriers is a frequent phenomenon.
For sure, we ‘ve seen high profile bankruptcies; Arik and Aero immediately come to mind. But in both cases, the government worked hard to get them rescued.
Both Rwanda and Zimbabwe are good examples of why small countries need their own airlines. Big nation such as Nigeria needs it more than ever before.
With not enough space on the tarmac for a host of home-grown competition, countries need their own airlines to stimulate trade, boost tourism and in many cases, assert their  sovereignty.
Conventional wisdom suggests that states have no business running airlines. Indeed, the past few decades have seen most major economies sell their flag carriers to other airline groups or list them on the local bourse-often keeping minority stakes for sentimental purposes. The results have been mixed, at best.
Expert’s view
An aviation consultant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he also believes there’s a need for the governments to offer essential services to their citizens. In the case of countries with small populations or lacking strategic hubs, this also means underwriting the national airline.
Consultants might argue that this is wholly unnecessary, as other airlines will swoop down to soak up demand. But there is considerably more at stake than just ensuring every flight boasts 80 per cent load factor. On a good day, a national airline is an embassy with wings-transporting culture, cuisine, commerce and goodwill around the world.
Ethiopian Airlines is a flying example of resourcefulness and ingenuity. A flag carrier that instils a sense of pride when its tail is spotted on the runway of a far-off land; when it brings home the winning team or when it flies out of to evacuate citizens stranded in a conflict or disaster zone.
In an increasing globalised world, smart governments recognise the importance of having their flags fluttering on as many routes as possible. It is a mileage that certainly hasn’t been lost on Singapore, whose government owns the highly respected Singapore Airlines, or Dubai, home of Emirates. In both cases, these small states have made their airlines part of their national identity and growth strategy.
Last line
As governments around the world continue to tighten their belts, they also have the to remember there are some things you simply have to protect such as education, national security, banks and infrastructure are fundamental. An airline to call your own is also useful to get your citizens around the world and bring in visitors to invest and marvel at your achievements.

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Minister: Air transport pact execution begins next year



Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika said the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) would take a year or two for full implementation. He disclosed this to New Telegraph in Lagos.

The minster urged Nigerian airline operators to key into the policy rather than grumbling over what he said would bring prosperity to the African continent. He explained that Nigeria was among the first 11 countries that endorsed the Yamoussoukro Decision and took a decision to open the skies for Africa sector and liberalised the industry.

He reiterated that the full execution of the pact means more jobs, development, security and more connectivity, adding that arising from that, Nigeria is a signatory to the pact.

The African Union Commission launched the first AU Agenda 2063 Flagship project, the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 28, 2018 as a historic event at the African Union Summit, nearly two decades after the adoption of the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision.

Sirika stated that aviation industry currently supports eight million jobs in Africa and hence SAATM was created with the aim of enhancing connectivity, facilitating trade and tourism, creating employment, and ensuring that the industry plays a more prominent role in the global economy and significantly contributing to the AU’s Agenda 2063.

His words, “The single African air transport market became an issue and Nigeria is among the 23 countries to make that solemn declaration on single aviation market and Nigeria with its population of about 173 million people will be the greatest beneficiary. By the time Nigeria was pushing for it, you and I know that we had Nigeria Airways and we thought we would take advantage of that. Now that we don’t, for one reason or the other, our airlines have not grown to such capacity”.

“We should set in motion a robust carrier that will take the advantage of this single African market to the benefits of the Nigerian people.

I believe we are on the right course believing that these private sector driven airlines become a dominant carrier in Africa because the market is in Nigeria.

“Nigeria is at a vantage position. Nigeria’s travel almost for nothing. If you talk of advantage, Nigeria is at a very vantage position to take advantage of this SAATM. As soon as it is signed, implementation begins. It will take one to two years to be operational”, he added. The minster carpeted the country’s carriers for their poor health, stressing that he was not sure they were financial healthy.

His words, “ I am not sure they are financially healthy. NCAA to my knowledge are conducting audit round the airlines at the moment and I am sure the result is not something we want to go the press with.

They refused to grow and the challenges are not government caused. It is their own making. Very soon, there will be a stakeholders meeting where themselves will be present”. He explained that the stakeholders’ meeting would afford him and the carriers the opportunity to dialogue on the situation they found themselves.

The minister stated that he would make them get their acts to focus, to re-organise, re-engineer and take advantage and be futuristic.

“They need to look at the bigger picture and bigger pie and organise themselves to take advantage of SAATM rather than to seat here while the train is moving”, he added.

On the huge debts owed by airline, the Minister disclosed that a particular airline owes one of the agencies N13 billion, adding that another had its operations grounded as a result of debts running into over N500 billion, which necessitated the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) taking it over.

He however, gave assurance that no airline would be allowed to pile up debts again because of the belief that the debts could be written off because of the people airline operators know at the corridor of power.

“Since it is over time and it was in those years of impunity that must be changed.

Those things were allowed but under this administration, it is not going to happen at all – to allow them to continue to owe debts and someone allows the debts to be waved off. No airline can call the Villa. There is no door or window that is opened in the villa for any entrepreneur to break the law and go there and get it resolved. He cannot come to the office of the Minister of DG NCAA with unclean hands to get anything resolved”.

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NAMA pushes for industrial harmony



The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency ( NAMA) is set to achieve industrial harmony as its management held an engagement forum with the Joint Aviation Trade Unions.
The unions, according to a source, include National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA), National Association of Aeronautical Engineers (NAAE) and Aeronautical Information Management Association of Nigeria (AIMA). Also included is the National Aeronautical Communication Association of Nigeria (NACAN), and Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees ( ACUPTRE).
The forum, which held at the corporate headquarters of the airspace agency, provided an opportunity for the airspace agency team, led by Captain Fola Akinkuotu, to engage the leadership of aviation unions on how to forestall industrial unrest and examine issues bordering on non-conclusive conditions of service, poor salaries as a result of non-implementation of the National Wages and Salaries Commission approval for NAMA to operate same salary structure with Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), since 2003.
The meeting, a source said was the first time Akinkuotu met with trade and professional unions after one year in office.
Led by the National President of NUATE, Comrade Mohammed Dauda Safiyanu , the meeting offered a robust window for NAMA management to resolve mistrust that has existed in the agency occasioning lack of trust .
According to Safiyanu , the meeting also provided opportunity for NAMA management to leverage capacity building, foster training and promotion of personnel of the agency to eliminate low work morale.
He said: ” The meeting provided an opportunity to consider ancillary issues especially matters of discipline and the need to promote fair, just and harmonious work environment .

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