• Slashes charges paid by passengers
• Removes cargo sales charge on agric products for export
• To ground private planes used for commercial business
THE Federal Government on Tuesday directed all airlines operating both general and commercial services in the country to henceforth make it a priority to recruit Nigerian pilots in order to create jobs for the nation’s teaming professionals. The government in giving this directive said the aim is to begin to actualize the Nigerian dream whereby Nigerians will be the ones to build Nigeria. In fact, the government gave the airlines up to July 1, 2015 to fully implement the directive or have their operational licenses withdrawn. This revelation was made by the Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Benjamin Chidoka who also ordered the airlines to henceforth train their personnel on yearly basis across the aviation landscape, to include pilots, aircraft engineers, aeronautical information officers, air traffic controllers and cabin crew.
According to him, the current trend among airlines to poach trained personnel from among themselves instead of investing in training their existing staff, destabilizes a strong safety culture. He gave these directives while unveiling a new initiative called ‘Aviation Commits Initiative’ (ACI) which is aimed at repackaging, rebranding and redirecting the aviation industry in Nigeria towards enhanced service delivery and customer satisfaction. The Guardian gathered that this was the first bold step and attempt by the aviation sector in Nigeria to acknowledge the need for service improvement to its customers and publicly commit to carrying out such improvements as appropriate. As Chidoka put it, it is about building a brand in line with global standards that inspires trust and confidence among customers who are the liveblood of the industry.
To him, aviation commits, is a policy priority of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for expanding and clearly defining consumer protection of Nigerian airline passengers as Nigeria intends to actualise the plans to be a regional hub by championing the implementation of the Yamoussoukro declaration of an open sky in the African continent. In demonstrating the seriousness he attaches to this initiative, the minister said he had identified that general aviation was responsible for over 70 per cent of air accidents and therefore has decided that from February 5, 2015, all private registered airlines for general aviation who also carry on commercial business in Nigeria would be grounded until proper regularisation of their registration with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Presently, there are 90 foreign registered general aviation aircraft purportedly operating for private use, while 111 Nigerian registered aircraft for general aviation use only. It was because of the giant strides being recorded in aviation that Chidoka announced that it was high time the players in the industry begun to take the work ethics seriously to the benefit of the customers and the general public. He said reforms that were being carried out in the industry were to place the sector in better position in line with international best practices. To further improve the sector, the minister disclosed some other measures that are being considered to include a review of aviation fuel charges in view of the reduction in oil prices. In view of this, the fuel surcharge (YQ) which is the single highest component on the passenger’s ticket currently arbitrarily charged by airline operators without any standardised method of computation, the minister said, would be reviewed.
This decision was based on the report of the ministerial committee on aeronautical and non aeronautical charges that recommended a wide range of measures to sanitise the operations of all stakeholders in the aviation sector. Chidoka, relying on this, said in line with the recommendations, his ministry is working to streamline the air cargo fees and revising landing, parking and ancillary fees to avoid hidden costs being passed on to the passengers. He also announced that the ministry would carry out a full independent audit of the fuel surcharge and further introduce an industry standard method of computation, warning that sanctions would be enforced for non compliance with industry standards. To reiterate the government of President Jonathan’s resolve to diversify the economy, the minister announced that with effect from February 3, 2015, all agricultural products for export would henceforth be exempted from the five per cent cargo sales charge.
On differential price fixing charges by international airline operators, Chidoka said the issue of the apparent disparity in ticket costs levied on Nigerian passengers compared to that of other continental destinations would be addressed soon. Concerning the recommendations by the ministerial committee on accident investigation, the minister that as at January 28, 2015, the implementation status for fully closed cases improved to 75 per cent, while seven percent was partially closed and 18 per cent are still open. The minister who was applauded several times while announcing the changes, however acknowledged that the sector was not there yet, but said that with the efforts of all concerned and the relevant agencies, ‘things will keep on improving until customer satisfaction is achieved.’
He also disclosed that in strict implementation of the new initiative, there is the likelihood of making new enemies and new friends, but stated that he was determined to risk everything to win the friendship of the passengers who must be served to win their hearts. The Vice President, Mohammed Nemadi Sambo represented at the occasion by the Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Suleiman Olarenwaju led in the unveiling of the logo of the initiative to declare it open. While unveiling the logo of the initiative, the Vice President praised the effort of the minister since he assumed office in July last year and said the new initiative is a consolidation of the gains attained in the aviation master-plan.