Minister Keyamo Meets Stakeholders As They Discuss How To Improve Aviation Industry
“The Minister of Aviation & Aerospace Development, Barrister Festus Keyamo (SAN) today met with stakeholders in Nigeria’s aviation industry and deliberated extensively with them on the way forward, urging them to desist from blame game and focus on the industry’s problems.
In his opening speech delivered at the Stakeholders Forum held at BON Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, the Minister said the purpose of the meeting was “to receive inputs from you as technocrats and players in the industry. Your input will add value to the road map/focus area that the industry will prioritize to make our aviation sector world class and meet the aspirations of Nigerians and all aviation stakeholders.”
Reechoing his five point Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) namely improvement of infrastructure, supporting growth and sustenance of local industry, development of the industry’s human capacity, maximizing and optimizing revenues and enforcement of regulatory standards of safety, Keyamo said most of the many navigational equipment that are awaiting delivery to Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), are already obsolete. For this reason, he has called for a comprehensive list of all the equipment acquisition contracts. He said they would be reviewed and that the contracts that involve obsolete equipment would be cancelled, even where part payment had already been made because eventual deliveries of such equipment would still not benefit the country.
On flight delays and cancellations, Keyamo emphasized the need for public enlightenment on what stakeholders are doing to address the issues. In this regard, he issued a directive that a public portal should be created by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for a weekly publication of list of flight delays and cancellations, involved airline, date and time of occurrence, reason for the cancellation or delay and action taken on the incident.
Speaking for Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the spokesman, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo had in his presentation called for introduction of an Aviation Half Hour on national television to enlighten the public on what they should or should not do in the course of air travel, alleging that out of 99 ICAO listed reasons for flight delays and cancellations, less than 5% are caused by the airlines while airport infrastructure problems and other factors caused the other incidents.
The Minister said the weekly publication he had directed would actually absolve the airlines of all the blames heaped on them by the public.
On the existence of about 13 screening points at the airport, which sometimes involves skirmishes among security agencies at the airport and extortion of air travellers, the Minister said he had already agreed with the National Security Adviser, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, to issue a joint memo, addressing the matter.
On the issue of collection of multiple and illegal airport fees, he set up a Ministerial Committee on illegal Fees. Members are the Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), NCAA Representative, Ground Handlers Association, AON, two of the Minister’s Special Advisers and others. The committee’s major term of reference is to identify agencies or bodies that charge such fees and submit the report from November 15, 2023.
The Minister further stated that all Nigeria’s Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) would be reviewed to check the error of hopping of foreign airlines from one airport in Nigeria to another. He said he was already working on settlement of outstanding debts owed some workers of defunct Nigeria Airways Limited and the request by aviation agencies that they be removed from the Transparency Single Account (TSA) of the federal government. Minister Keyamo also confirmed that the Central Bank of Nigeria had commenced the clearing of airlines’ trapped funds.
In his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Aviation & Aerospace Development, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole had said the meeting was critical because without the stakeholders, there would be no need to have a Minister, adding that expectations of the industry would be harvested from the discussions at the meeting.
In his Goodwill Message, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Abdullahi Idris Garba, who was represented at the event, called on stakeholders to always provide guiding solutions to the oversight activities of the legislators.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator AbdulFatai Buhari in his Goodwill remark, commended the Minister for his innovation and promised that the Senate would give the required support to the Minister to improve the industry, adding that a total of 17 amendments had been made to aviation laws since he joined the aviation committee.
The Director General, Civil Aviation, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu in his presentation, requested that the NCAA should not be treated as a service provider like other aviation agencies.
The Managing Director of Things Remembered, an airline catering service provider, Mrs. D. Omikunle informed the Minister in her presentation that foreign airlines were importing food to serve onboard instead of patronizing Nigeria’s local content.
The Managing Director of NAMA, Engr. Tayib Odunowo said NAMA had engaged two companies, one of which is Thales of France to do a technical report on the agency’s equipment needs under its airspace modernization project.
President of Association of Foreign Airlines Representatives of Nigeria (AFARN), Mr. Kingsley Nwokoma informed the audience that for 100 tonnes of cargo leaving Nigeria, US$35,000 is charged, whereas in Ghana, US$3,000 is the charge. He called for a review of the charges.
The Regional Director of International Air Transport Association (IATA), West & Central Africa, Dr. Samson Fatokun said two airports in Nigeria are the most expensive airports to operate into in Africa and that the high cost of flight tickets result from the high cost of airline operations. He advocated an ease of business policy for airlines.
On the importation of food served onboard foreign airlines, the Minister said it contradicts the government’s local content policy and that something would be done about it either through the BASA agreement or some diplomatic discussions.
On the undermining of NCAA’s regulatory superiority over other aviation agencies, the Minister said the DG, Civil Aviation should let the Minister and Ministry know what is expected and that the Ministry would be ready to fully support efforts to ensure NCAA takes its rightful functional position practically.
On the unknown organization that had been collecting charges that NAMA ought to be collecting, the Minister directed that the organization be identified while such collection should cease.
NAMA Managing Director in response, said he already issued a circular on assumption of office to the effect that such organization is unknown to NAMA and that the illegal charge collector had not showed up again thereafter.
The Minister further said: “You will recall that following my appointment by Mr. President, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, I had gone on inspection of the Nigeria airports i.e Lagos and Abuja. I set up a task-force for the relocation of foreign airlines from the old international terminal to the new terminal following the state of disrepair of the old terminal which does not speak well about Nigeria as a people. The task force has since submitted their report. We are looking at their recommendations for possible action. We will overhaul this terminal to further boost the revenue drive of our airports.
I equally, formally received the land for the construction of the 2nd runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja from the Jiwa Community. This is a historic event and dream come through, which Nigerians have looked up to for the past two decades. You can be rest assured that the benefits of the second runway will provide substantial economic advantage to the Nation.
I have also received briefs from some of the Agencies under the Ministry and the Unions in the aviation industry. I have taken note of the concerns raised. After this engagement we shall have a management retreat where we will further distil your inputs as stakeholders to move the aviation industry forward.”
Keyamo also said President Bola Tinubu “has unveiled his economic plan. The three-year economic revival plan that emerged from his inaugural Federal Executive Council meeting is anchored in an Eight-Point focus areas targeted at addressing Nigeria’s socioeconomic challenges. It seeks to move away from the frenzied borrowing of the last government, check the unacceptably high jobless rate, achieve economic growth, prosperity for all, and end poverty. This, we as an industry, will factor into our own focus areas for the development of the industry and in turn the economic development of our nation.”
Minister Keyamo will again, be meeting with the industry heads and other stakeholders in Warri, Delta State to further the deliberations from Wednesday, November 8, 2023 for three days.