AM EDITORIAL: Nigeria’s Aviation Industry 2024: Time To Move Back To The Future

The 2006 Nigerian Civil Aviation Policy Review that ushered in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act 2006, pushed behind, the then immediate ugly past of planes dropping from the skies often and making the country a write-off in the perception of the international community as regards aviation development.

Thereafter, the Standards & Recommended Practices (SARPs) of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was popularized among more stakeholders in the country and expectation of a bright future for the sector was built with emergence of the likes of Dr. Harold Demuren as Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and subsequent emergence of Nigerians occupying decision making positions at international bodies across the globe.

However, laxity is an opportunist when applauds emerges. With time, the anticipated growth and development process envisaged by the 2006 law was disrupted with deviant activities such as operation of aviation agencies for over a decade without inauguration of agency boards, leaving Ministers of Aviation to please themselves with power rather than pleasing the country, personal interest-driven changes in industry leadership without recourse to implications on career progression and the country’s image before the world, emergence and establishment of local airlines without good business plans and good corporate governance principles, proliferation of charges, fees and tariffs at airports thereby discouraging investment and airport usage, shameful dilapidation of airports infrastructure due to absence of deliberate maintenance or maintenance programmes, obvious neglect and mismanagement of the foremost internationally respected aviation flying school in Nigeria, frequent “mouthing” of automation plans by stakeholders without doing so, neglect of aviation staff welfare, loss of control of cargo charge management at the nation’s airports, serving the interest of foreign airlines against the interest of local airlines development, avoidable increase in operating costs from fuel, aircraft maintenance, access to aircraft financing, and so on and so forth.

Let the truth be told. The position of Nigeria’s aviation industry today on the global aviation map in terms of performance ranking is far from the future that was envisaged. For instance, the industry has been praying for a future when there would be normal personnel career progression and noiseless succession plan execution at the agencies as is obtainable in other climes. The era of industry accountability is also a prayer point.

Meanwhile, 2024 provides an opportunity for the country to attempt to begin a journey back to the much desired future.

The Minister of Aviation & Aerospace Development, Barrister Festus Keyamo (SAN) has spent barely seven months in this capacity and the five point agenda of his leadership has been unfolded. 2024 provides an opportunity for a SPEEDY, STRATEGIC but ACCOUNTABLE execution of this agenda. We urge the Honourable Minister to ensure that all policy decisions made this year are patriotism compliant.

We welcome the newly appointed heads of aviation agencies to the saddle and wish to urge these industry pilots to roll up their sleeves and get down to work this year in order to take the industry back to the good future that was much desired years ago.

Passenger safety, security and comfort are paramount. A state of emergency should be declared on airports infrastructure. The system requires full manpower utilization while the regulatory agency needs adequate equipment with technical personnel.

The industry requires maximum compliance with globally acceptable standards for revenue generation and maximization, such that aviation’s input in Gross Domestic Product grows. There is need for fully secured airports across the country, strong carriers to fly the nation’s flag abroad and economically sound local airlines to serve Nigerians.

Prioritization of Nigeria’s interest above foreign and personal interests in signing and implementation of international agreements is expected this year.

This year, the industry expects minimization of capital flight through establishment, certification and promotion of local MRO facility for deliberate revenue generation, job creation, reduction of airlines operating costs, and other developmental measures.

It looks forward to a strong, reliable and assertive regulatory body devoid of political interference in its execution of regulatory responsibilities, creation of conducive environment for operation of aviation business, attraction of local and foreign investments and removal of the obstacles to the movement of cargo by air within and outside Nigeria by exposing and reviewing all existing known and unknown charges, tariffs and fees at the nation’s cargo sheds. Only nine of the 25 charges currently being paid on cargo are allegedly recognized by the government, implying that money is going into private pockets while hindering the movement of goods and services in the air cargo sector.

Also expected this year, is the review of proliferation of airports establishment for egoistic, political and selfish reasons rather than for economic development and viability of the nation’s economy; review and regulation of charges imposed by aviation agencies on players in the sector as well as 40% of annual revenue remittance by agencies to the federal government, a practice that has rendered them incapable of serving public interest effectively and producing a desired prosperous aviation industry.

The frequency of strikes by aviation workers increased in recent years because the welfare of the aviation worker has increasingly become arguably insignificant. This is the year for Nigeria’s aviation industry to get serious with pursuit of a better future. The aviation worker’s welfare is critical to the sector’s prosperity.

As for operations modernization and technological advancement, every exposed individual knows that a total automation of revenue collection systems and processes for cargo and indeed automation of AOC Processes and many other operations in the industry will bring corrupt practices to its knees; but the question has been; “Who will bell the cat?”

In 2024, Nigeria’s House of Representatives and Senate Committees on Aviation should wake up to their responsibilities and do their jobs.

2024 presents another opportunity for all aviation industry players to prove the willingness to build an aviation industry that can become a source of envy to other parts of the world.AM

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Albinus Chiedu

Albinus Chiedu is a journalist, aviation media consultant, events management professional, and author. He has practiced journalism since 2000.

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