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Anxiety Grows Over Merger Of Aviation Agencies


Kayode Adelowokan

Anxiety has continued to grow from stakeholders in the Nigeria aviation industry over the recent proposed merger of the industry’s agencies in order to reduce cost and for effective management.

LagosAirport2The Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the National Union Of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Association Of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) rejected the move of the Federal Government to merge the three parastatals under the federal ministry of aviation namely, the Nigerian airspace management agency (NAMA), Nigerian Meteorological agency (NIMET) and the Nigerian civil aviation authority (NCAA).

The Unions expressed shocked by the announced merger which it said is coming at a time when Nigeria has a signatory to the convention on international civil aviation as in the past 14 years made significant progress in institutionalizing and nurturing the Nigerian civil aviation authority into a sound civil aviation regulatory institution that is now a reference model of a CAA in the west African sub-region and in Africa.

The Unions in a joint statement said, “We viewed the decision of the government to merge the NCAA – a regulatory entity with NAMA and NIMET both service providers within the aviation industry as ill-timed, ill-conceived and inimical to the sustenance of the feast Nigeria has attained in the area of international certification by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Federal Aviation Administration of the United State of America (FAA CAT 1).

“While the Unions recorgnise the prerogative of the Federal Government to restructure and consolidate its parastatals for whatever reasons, we are of the opinion that the government should have consulted widely on the issue and its consequences on the industry before taking the decision. We say boldly that whatever savings the federal government intends to achieve through this merger will definitely compromise safety which we all know is priceless. You cannot quantify the cost of safety and efficiency neither can we mortgage safety on the platter of reducing cost.”

The unions however reminded federal government about Nigeria’s obligations under the Chicago convention of 1944 and the consequential commitment to subject its civil aviation activities to regular, routine and scheduled oversight/inspection by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) which is charged with the responsibility of setting standards for civil aviation and over sighting same globally through its universal safety audit oversight program. May we state here that Nigeria has and maintains similar commitment with the international Maritime Organisation (IMO) pursuant to its being a signatory to the World Maritime conventions.

“The unions invite the federal government to also note that what it seeks to do by the proposed merger is a situation that existed over 20 years ago in the days of the defunct FCAA, when the FCAA as it then was, carried out both regulatory and service provider functions. That system was found to be unprogressive, dysfunctional and unable to project adequately the safety oversight responsibility of the then FCAA and consequently, the federal government scraped the FCAA in 1996 and transferred its safety and economic regulatory functions to two departments in the federal ministry of aviation namely, Directorate of Economic Regulatory and Monitoring (DERAM) and Directorate of Safety Regulation and Monitoring (DSRAM). After wide consultations both at home and abroad with stakeholders on the way forward with regards to its safety oversight obligation under the Chicago convention, the Federal Government saw the need to conform with the prescriptions of ICAO on the structure of a state regulatory system (ICAO doc. 8335 Chapter 3) and global best practices by establishing NCAA in 1999 as a distinct regulatory authority separate from the service providers to with; NAMA, FAAN and NIMET.”

The unions also expressed worry why government have decided to take a backward decision owing to the fact that the country have enjoyed the support of the world during the last ICAO council elections that produced the first black man and a Nigerian, Dr. O.B. Aliu, as president of the council of ICAO.

“We are privy to information that the current Nigerian model and structure of civil aviation which separated regulatory oversight functions from accident investigation and the provision of civil aviation services functions is being recommended by ICAO and the USA FAA to several African States. We strongly support the current model that makes for the autonomy and independence of the NCAA and feels it should not in any way be diluted as doing so would attract dire consequences from ICAO and the FAA.”

If the move is carried out, the stakeholders argued that the effect of the merger may cause the nation to lose the FAA-CAT 1 safety status, a loss the stakeholders claimed would lead to huge investment loss in the industry and even increase the unemployment problem in the country.

They therefore urged the Federal Government in the interest of safety, integrity and investment already made in the industry, to save jobs of thousands of Nigerians by reversing the policy and strengthen the agencies with no political interference in the operations to ensure quality service delivery and safer skies in the country.

Speaking in a similar vein, the Secretary General of Nigerian Aviation Professionals Association (NAPA), Comrade Abdul Rasaq Seidu, in a statement entitled: Our Protest/Position Against the Federal Government’s Decision to Merge NCAA, NAMA and NIMET,   queried the decision of the Federal Government to embark on such policy without wide consultation with stakeholders in the sector.

“We received with rude shock the news from media houses that the Federal Government has approved a committee’s report and has decided to merge NCAA, NAMA and NIMET together without wide consultations with all stakeholders in Aviation sector.”

NAPA said “the merger is totally unacceptable as such decision shall be counterproductive and therefore should be rejected by all well-meaning Nigerians and air travellers in particular.

It added that as stakeholder in the industry, it would not fold its hand and watch the industry slide into era of crises which the nation left behind with the establishment of the agencies for safety, security and seamless service delivery in the sector.

“We are part of the stakeholders and cannot fold our hands, close our mouths to allow the destabilisation of the past gains in the sector to be wished away unchecked.

It will be suicidal for Nigeria to now decide to go back to a system which was tried and failed because of lack of compliance with ICAO practices and set standard,” NAPA claimed.

Also condemning the merger and requested for immediate reversal of the policy, a member of Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retired), who also toed the line of thought with other stakeholders in the aviation industry, noted that Nigeria at her level in the aviation industry as a holder of FAA-CAT1 certification, cannot begin to domicile with countries that are not category one certified.

He said, “I believed very strongly that the Federal Government is ill-advised to take the action. If the government was not wrongly advised, the Steve Oransanye Committee must have done a very bad job. They did a bad job because they did not know the working system of the aviation industry; it did not understand the functions of NCAA, neither of NAMA nor of NIMET. I am not very sure whether they knew that NCAA is a regulator and that the aviation industry itself is one of the most regulated in the world. And for anybody to start thinking that you can merge an operator of the level of NAMA with all its architecture and put it under NCAA, I think that person has drawn is back to the era of 1960 when every agency of the government was under the Ministry of Aviation. That is what they have done. NAMA as we know is the operator and the manager of the Nigerian airspace that spreads into the Nigerian boundaries and into other countries and it provides air traffic services. It is a service provider, and a service provider needs to be regulated. And when you now take the functions of that agency and put it as a function of the regulatory agency, then the impression we are giving international organisations is that we don’t have the idea of what aviation is all about. I think the President was not properly briefed and I think whoever the consultant to Oransanye was, has no idea of what aviation is all about. What everybody was thinking was how to make money, how to commercialise the whole industry. Nobody says you should not commercialise the industry, you can commercialise, privatise or outright sales of the industry but definitely not the NCAA,” he said.

Ojikutu, who particularly lamented the decision of the Federal Government to merge service providers with industry regulator, said such action creates doubt in the minds of international bodies on the way we run the aviation industry. He thinks that the fear will result in increased insurance premium of airlines that operate into Nigerian airspace. This would however be borne by Nigerians in form of increased air fares.

Now, the question is, should federal government still go ahead with the merger plan?


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