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Aviation: Buhari’s Scorecard, the gains and Challenges

The aviation industry is one of the sectors the present government has put in the front burner geared towards contributing to increasing the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

To achieve this, an aviation roadmap was conceptualized not only to ensure a safe, secured and profitable industry but to attract foreign direct investments, stimulate business activities and create more jobs.

In this special report, our aviation correspondent Nosa Aituamen highlights the achievements in the industry of the present government till date.

Ensuring Safety

For more than seven years, the present administration has embarked on massive investments in airports, air navigation, accident investigation, meteorology infrastructure and manpower training.

Many of the infrastructure are not visible to air travellers but the evidence of their existence is the safety the aviation sector has enjoyed in the past seven years.

Projects like, the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria, TRACON, safe tower, multilateration for low level flying helicopters, human capital development have contributed immensely to air safety.

According to the Acting Managing Director, Nigeria Airspace Management, Agency, NAMA, Mr. Mathew Pwajok this has increased traffic in the use of the Nigeria airspace.

“It is not by luck, this is as a result of very strategic efforts that has been made”.

The new Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, laboratory in Abuja for analysing the cockpit and data voice recorders popularly called the black boxes, timely release of accident and incident investigation reports, safety recommendations and implementation, the Commissioner of the bureau, Mr. Akin Olateru says, have also helped to sustain the country’s safety records.

“It is all about improving safety for the flying public”.

According to him, all these have led to signing of Memorandum of Understandings, MoUs and collaboration with some African countries and the Middle East, institutions to investigate their air crashes and train their personnel.

Weather is a major contributor to air accident. To accurately detect these hazardous weather phenomenal, equipment have been installed across airports in Nigeria to give real time weather information to pilots from departure, en-route and destination.

The Director General, Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NiMet, Prof. Mansur Matazu said, apart from the seasonal rainfall predictions to guide the sector, briefing rooms for pilot with the latest weather equipment have been built.

“We are present in all the states of the federation and in all the federal, private and state airports and we have built infrastructure and acquired certification for quality service delivery and competency”.

Projects/Facility Upgrade

Today, many Nigerians and foreigners are enjoying the new international airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu, all inaugurated by President Mohammadu Buhari.

The social media have been awash with comments from users of the beauty and architectural designs of these terminals fitted with modern facilities as obtained globally.

Another feat is the speedy reconstruction of the Abuja and Enugu airport runways in a spate of two months when critics where pessimistic that it was not doable.

Despite the inconveniences it caused both the airlines and passengers, the runways were completed in record time.

Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu speaks on other projects embarked on.

“Facilities and equipment replacement and the equipment also we are addressing almost all the ones that are redundant or obsolete, right now 80% of them have been procured or are in the process of being installed”.

Airlines/Airports

As regard airlines safe operations, the strict oversight of the the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, led to the  suspension of Air Operators Certificate, AOC, of some airlines while others grounded their own operations for safety reasons to avoid revocation or suspension of certificate.

Director General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu stressed that safety will never be compromised.

“If you don’t that your AOC is suspended”.

During the period under review, six new airlines started operations while new airports built by some state governments started operations. 

All these did not only create more jobs it also helped in stimulating additional business activities and increased passenger traffic.

Covid-19 Pandemic

At global gatherings like the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, Nigeria has received applause for its effective and efficient coordination of the gradual reopening of both domestic and international travels after the lock down occasioned by the the Covid-19 pandemic was lifted.

The template as put together by the Presidential Steering Committee on Covid-19 was adopted by many countries for the resumption of their flights.

After resumption of flight services, the Federal Government doled out N27 billion as intervention fund to cushion the effects of the pandemic on the industry and businesses associated with aviation.

Stakeholders comment on these.

“Today, we have airports we can be proud of, we have technocrats in the industry and more airlines now feel comfortable to fly into out country”.

Roadmap: Nigeria Air/Concession, Controversies

However, certain projects as mapped out by the federal government to develop the sector as contained in the aviation roadmap from inception till date have met with stiff opposition from aviation unions, airline operators, federal lawmakers and stakeholders.

Notable among them are the Nigeria Air project and airport concession.

“And we are offloading our BASA to Ethiopia, we are ready to fight to finish, we are fighting the course of the downtrodden. No concession would be concluded labour issues are not discussed”.

In the Nigeria Air project their grouse with the government is that the process is shrouded in secrecy as regard what the sharing formula entails and the choice of Ethiopian Airlines as strategic investor, alleging that this attempt is targeted at decimating the local market.

“It should be stopped and a more transparent process should be put in place, Ethiopian airlines should be cancelled, it is an embarrassment for us as a nation with such a potential”.

Minister of Aviation Senator Hadi Sirika has overtime tried to calm frayed nerves on this matter, stressing that government means well for Nigerians with the project.

“It is on purpose that we choose to do a public, private partnership arrangement on these roadmap items so that the people will now owe it”.

This explanation not 100% convincing to some airline operators resulted in litigation to stop to the Nigeria Air project.

While the government is determined to fulfilled its promises of birthing a national carrier this year, aviation unions are agitating for a comprehensive forensic audit, alleging that, Nigerians have been cheated in terms of funds  approved for aviation roadmap project.

With few months to the end of this administration, regardless of some set backs suffered in achieving the aviation roadmap, one fact cannot be denied that air safety in the country has greatly been improved upon.

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