Last week, the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika held the fourth stakeholders forum in Abuja where he x-rayed the industry and reinforced government’s plan to revamp the sector.
The discussions at the meeting centered around the unveiling of Transaction Advisers for the planned national carrier, the concession of major airports, the establishment of aircraft leasing company and the establishment of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility.
Addressing stakeholders at the occasion, the minister reiterated the challenges facing the industry, which include inadequate safety, security and surveillance equipment, decaying\ageing infrastructure and obsolete equipment. He also identified large number of unemployed trained professionals, high debt profile of domestic airlines, inadequate human capital development/capacity building of aviation experts as part of the problems.
Others issued included rising price and scarcity of Jet A1 (aviation fuel), failure of full implementation of waiver on Customs Duty on aircraft and spares, budgetary constraints, ageing and over-bloated workforce at the management levels within the agencies.
The minister also restated the government’s plan to concession the airports, establish a national carrier, develop agro-cargo terminals, establish MRO centre and establish aviation leasing company.
Others areas of focus included development of Airport Cities (Aerotropolis), development of Abuja second runway and associated infrastructure, upgrading of communication and navigational equipment and facilities, upgrading Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to multi-modal AIB to be named Nigerian Transportation Accident Investigation Bureau (NTAIB) and procurement of calibration equipment/ aircraft.
Government also planned to development policy on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), establishment of Aerospace University in Abuja, review the Civil Aviation Policy and Acts, restructure aviation parastatals and carry out the enforcement of expatriate quota
The minister also spoke about the establishment of search and rescue system, upgrade the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria (NCAT) into an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regional training centre of excellence.
He however identified the progress made so far, which include the improvement in aviation safety and security, certification of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in line with the guidelines and procedures stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Other achievements identified by the Minister include World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Certification of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) for conforming to the requirements of (ISO 9001 2015) for the provision of meteorological services to the aviation industry and other stakeholders.
He noted that Nigeria is the only country to achieve (ISO 2009 2015) in Africa, adding that there are plans to uupgrade the meteorological stations in Nigerian universities nation-wide for Research Training and Development (RTD), the inauguration of Project Steering Committee (PSC) and the Project Delivery Team (PDT) as well as the engagement of Transaction Advisors for six key projects within the Sector.
The achievements also include the recent installation of Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS) at Katsina Airport, Ilorin and Kaduna, installation of Tidal Gauge at NIMET Marine Station, Eket, National and international collaborative partnership on improved weather and climate services delivery, review of various Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASAs) to bring them up to date on current issues and create opportunities for domestic carriers to fly international routes and import duties waiver on engine and spares.
The federal government said it completed flight calibration of navigational aids at Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Enugu, and Kaduna airports for improved safety and installed new navigational aids at Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Jos, Kaduna Minna, Maiduguri, Enugu, Benin, Calabar and Ibadan to improve accessibility to the airports even under severe weather conditions.
But why government was commended by stakeholders for the above achievements, many have expressed doubt that it would realise the major plant of its transformation of the industry given the short time of this administration. Sirika however, did not say that the President Buhari government would carry over some of the projects to the next tenure if it wins the 2019 election.
Appraising what it has achieved in the critical programme like the establishment of national carrier, leasing company, MRO centre and others, industry observers posit that seemingly nothing much has been achieved and noted that not only that the time is too short for the programmes to be accomplished but these also need private sector input.
Although it has not been made public how far the transaction advisers have gone in actualising the set goals of the administration, but many industry observers said government might face a challenge convincing the private sector to invest in some of these programme, given the short span of time.
However, industry consultant and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe expressed optimism that if the Transaction Adviser for national carrier was given timeline, government would be able to establish a national carrier before the end of the current administration.
He also noted that the current process is open and getting the necessary approvals from the Federal Executive Council (FEC), adding that although the Transaction Adviser was unveiled last Thursday but it had already started working since Lufthansa Consulting was shown the door out by the federal government.