August 1, 2021

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AVIATION WORKERS URGE MINISTER TO ADVICE PRESIDENT BUHARI AGAINST PROPOSED MERGER OF NIMET, NAMA, NCAA

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Left: Senate President, Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, President Muhammadu Buhari, Speaker Olufemi Gbajabiamila

Aviation unions in Nigeria have delivered a petition to the Minister of Aviation, Capt Hadi Abubakar Sirika, fervently urging him to promptly intervene in the arrant un-professional recommendation by the Oronsaye panel that, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, Nigerian Meteorology Agency, NIMET , should be merged with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA and become, Federal Civil Aviation Authority, FCAA.

In the jointly signed letter by the three unions, National Association of Aircraft Pilots And Engineers, NAAPE, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, and the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, ANAP, they appealed to the minister to prevent the destruction of air transport in Nigeria which they said is simply what the execution of the panel’s recommendation portends for the country.

In the petition dated 13th May 2020, which is titled, “STEPHEN ORONSAYE PANEL GOT IT WRONG ON CIVIL AVIATION: MERGING OF REGULATORY AUTHORITY WITH SERVICE PROVIDER AGENCIES WILL REVERSE 17 YEARS OF PROGRESSIVE REGULATORY EFFORTS”, they described as anachronistic, the recommendation that dared to merge service provider agencies of NAMA and NIMET with their regulator, NCAA, and expect the entire aviation sector to run smoothly and that such operations be acceptable to the entire global bodies that regulate the industry modus operandi to achieve seamless global aviation, is sickening.

Capt Hadi Abubakar Sirika, Minister of Aviation

The unions reminded the President through the Minister that, “It is important to state here that because of the premium ICAO attaches to the independence/autonomy of Civil Aviation regulatory agencies around the world, and the need to separate aviation regulators from aviation services providers, the ICAO President visited Nigeria and held a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan wherein he strongly advised the government against the proposed merger. Indeed President Goodluck Jonathan heeded the advice, the reason the proposed merger was dropped”.

They argued that “the government should not uphold the recommendation of the merger of NAMA, NIMET and NCAA because, the first two are; air navigation services provider (ANSP) which includes the provision of over-flight services to international flights crossing Nigeria Airspace, and aero meteorological services provider respectively, while the NCAA is the industry regulatory agency. Therefore, merging them will put the “merged entity” in a position of conflict of interest i.e. a situation whereby a service provider will now regulate itself – a very serious and challenging phenomenon that, in the long run, will result in complacency, corruption and inefficiency in service delivery”.

They stated that “If the intention of the Oronsaye Committee is to reduce the cost of governance or to eliminate duplication of functions in the three entities penned through its recommendation for the merger, then the committee got it absolutely wrong because NCAA stands alone as a regulator with clearly defined responsibilities enabled by its establishment Act (civil Aviation Act 2006), that is, to regulate civil aviation and air navigation in Nigeria”.

The petition shed light that, “the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) was established to provide air navigation services that will enable the safe take-off and landing of aircraft within the Nigerian airspace while the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) provides Aero-metrological services, which in fact, is just about 10% when viewed against the 90% meteorological services NIMET provides to other key sectors of the Nigerian economy such as Agriculture, Oil & Gas, Construction Industry, Marine, Inland Waterways, etc”.

On the financials of the agencies in case cost saving was the factor that influenced such warped conclusion, the workers explained that “NAMA and the NCAA do not get any subvention from the federation account. They are both IGR (internally generated revenue) agencies with huge capital requirements that are funded from the revenue they generate from the services they provide to the aviation industry.

We equally fault the recommendation that the IGR of NAMA, NCAA and NIMET be paid into the federation account from which releases will be made to the Agencies for their day-to-day running and payment of salaries. This in effect will negate the principle of autonomy for the regulator and even for the ANSP. Lest we forget, there is a current campaign within the ICAO system for the autonomy of ANSPs so as to make them competitive and more efficient in the provision of seamless Air Navigation Services for the aviation industry”.

The union letter stated further, “We cannot end this clarion call on the Federal Government against the proposed merger without drawing the Government’s attention to the fact that the proposed merger, if actualised, will attract sanction from both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) IASA CAT1 and the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit (USOAP-CMA) queries. Let it be known to all and sundry that there are specific audit protocols/questionnaires that speak to the independence/autonomy of the civil aviation regulatory authority (NCAA).

Having toiled to attain and retain the FAA CAT1 rating and having been adjudged by ICAO as one of the frontline states in Africa in the ICAO USAOP-CMA audit, Nigeria cannot, at this point, afford to reverse and or sacrifice these monumental achievements at the altar of the proposed merger which in fact is contrary to the prescriptions of ICAO”.

The petition which was jointly signed by Comrade Frances Akinjole, Deputy General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Comrade Umoh Ofonime, Deputy General Secretary, NAAPE, and Comrade AbdulRazaq Seidu, Secretary General, ANAP, it was highlighted that “we have undertaken over 6 million take-offs and landings in commercial flights in Nigeria with zero accident, an achievement we must say, isn’t accidental. We have built institutions in the aviation industry in the past 18 years. What we expect from the government is a quick passage of the Agencies Acts before the National Assembly so as to enable consolidation on all that has been achieved, and sustainable policies that will further enable growth and new investments in the industry.

If we may recall, privatisation of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was also contemplated by the Oronsaye committee without taking into cognizance the security implication to our country. But the Federal Government was quick and wise enough to reject that without looking back. It is our considered opinion that we should collectively sustain and improve on the system rather than yield to a merger recommendation that, to the best of our knowledge and opinion, was not best researched”.

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