As controversy continues to trail the purchase of two bulletproof vehicles by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) at the cost of N255 million, industry stakeholders have called on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack the aviation minister, Ms Stella Oduah, over alleged corrupt practices.
This is even as they insisted on the appointment of professionals into all cadres of positions in the industry.
This is coming at the heels of the crash of the Associated Airline aircraft in Lagos and other incidents involving notable airlines such as the Kabo Air incident in Sokoto and the IRS Airline in Kaduna. They described these incidents as avoidable, stressing that the government must take adequate precaution to salvage the industry that is strategic in the development of the nation’s economy.
This is the view of most industry stakeholders and analysts who said if the current trend of events in the industry is not checked, it will stop air travellers from flying, even as they said that the apathy among air travellers seems to be increasing.
The president, Aviation Round Table (ART), Captain Dele Ore, said the current crisis in the industry stems from the fact that the aviation minister, Princess Stella Oduah, has taken upon herself the safety regulation of the industry.
He said, “This is against international best practice and counter to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) expectation from member states. The summary of this is that the state exacts unnecessary interference and undue influence in safety regulation instead of allowing the regulatory authority to perform her statutory functions.”
According to Ore, “Safety and security are indispensable ‘components’ of international civil aviation operations and by extension they form vital aspects of overall security of a nation. The levels of safety and security in civil aviation of a nation are determinant factors of economic growth and indices for investment prospects. It is very important therefore for managers and operators in civil aviation to acquaint themselves with what safety and security are about because they form the bedrock for operational growth and continuity.”
An investment analyst, Emeka Gbulie, stressed that the interference in the autonomy of the NCAA spelt doom for the aviation industry: “How autonomous is the NCAA? Or is the current director-general, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, the new puppy of Madam Minister and yes man in NCAA?
“In a country that is relatively rich from oil revenue but whose population suffers widespread poverty due to endemic governmental corruption and the severe stratification of wealth, many citizens are not surprised that the aviation industry, like most other sectors, is in a shambles. Urgent action must be taken to correct the many ills of the sector and set the industry on the path to recovery and prosperity.
“Without a doubt, the Nigerian aviation industry portends huge potential for the nation’s GDP; proper funding, effective policy implementation and supervision are critical to fully harness this potential. Also necessary are more standardised programmes for airline staff training, modernization of local airports, increased maintenance surveys of aircraft and stronger efforts to divorce governmental oversight agencies from political interests,” he said.
Also, Mr Odinaka Igbokwe, an air traveller, urged the government to do the right things in the industry, especially in its appointment of who runs the industry. He said government’s penchant for appointing politicians instead of professionals to key positions in the industry will only help to stagnate the growth of the industry which, he said, is key to the development of the nation’s economy.
He said the industry needs the appointment of professionals to key positions, stressing that the appointment of politicians to key positions is a recipe for failure. He said the government should pay attention to the issue of infrastructure upgrade, even as he said the remodelling of airports project has only succeeded in promoting the aesthetics of the airports without commensurate impact on the safety of the airspace.
He also said the aviation agencies should implement a policy that makes for succession into the agencies which will make it possible for the increased safety in the nation’s aviation industry. “For there to be sanity in the industry, the president must take a political decision, especially given the fact that corruption now gets in the way and is used to compromise safety in the industry,” he added. He said that each crash in the sector affects the confidence of passengers, adding that if there were an alternative means of transport, most people would stop travelling by air.