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How incoming government can reshape aviation — Alex Nwuba

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IN less than five days to expiration of the President Muhammadu Buhari led government, key players across the sector have continued to set targets for the incoming government.

Lending his own voice to this, the President of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria (AOPAN),  Dr Alex Nwuba, listed his expectations from the new government to include; the need for the incoming government to address the challenges of a bloated operating and governance structure and consolidate governance more effectively.

According to him, “To this objective, it is my proposal that the Ministry of Aviation be scrapped and reduced to a department under the Ministry of Transport. The establishment of the Department of Aviation services just as there are marine services, road transportation services etc. The Aviation department under the Ministry will be responsible for formulation and management of the government’s aviation policies and oversight and delegate some of its powers such as regulations to its agencies.

“The Ministry shall establish the Asset Development Company with the sole aim of financing or leasing assets on sovereign credit basis for on-leasing to air, sea and land operators. In the case of aircraft, it will own a portfolio of aircraft that can be leased by Nigerian operators. The Asset Development company for aviation shall be run in the same structure as FAAN has proposed.”

The aviation key player advised the incoming government, through the ministry, not to enter into an MRO business but leave that business solely to airline operators or other independent parties.

Under the incoming government, Nwuba wants the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to be the sole regulator of all aspects of aviation with each area coming under a directorate for regulation, including commercial aviation regulation (for hire services) and General aviation for (non-hire services). He said: “there will be an airport directorate to regulate airports etc. The NCAA shall be a fully independent and fully autonomous, it will have a Director General/Chief Executive, a Board of Directors and independent management, only the Director General and the Minister of Transport shall appoint board members, also the board shall hire the management.

“The NCAA will be responsible for maintaining a public register of all aircraft registered in Nigeria and shall ease the process of registration, It will have all the information on the status of aircraft leased into and operating in Nigeria including the lease type. It will be authorised to confiscate all aircraft leased for which the lessor has filed a claim to recover the asset and will return any aircraft under a lease as it will create an arbitration unit that will try to resolve all claims by lessors expeditiously.

It will further undertake the role of lease guarantor with respect to return of lease aircraft demanded by lessors to enhance the access to affordable leases by Nigerian carriers.  The NCAA will establish an asset register to enable to recording of liens and other instruments against assets in its register.

FAAN needs to be reorganised by the new government as the Federal Airports Company of Nigeria, with a Managing Director and a Board, “whose sole role will be the management of airports in Nigeria under a holding company structure with its subsidiaries as commercial entities. It shall run independent of the Ministry by its Board and management. Each airport will thereafter be incorporated as separate commercial entities, regulation of airports will revert to the sole aviation regulators the NCAA under the airport’s directorate. Each airport subsidiary will have its own management and Board and financial performance.

“States and private operators may develop and incorporate airports under the oversight of the NCAA and may enter into joint ventures or be operated as subsidiaries of FAAN by approval of the board or enter into management contracts. FAAN may choose to operate or concession its airports in the most economical and profitable manner for the state. The Minister shall however have the power to remove the Management and Board with the approval of the national assembly if they fail in their task of properly managing the airports.

While suggesting that the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) shall operate as an agency of the Ministry of Transport covering all transport modes, Nwuba declared that the Nigerian Meteorological Services (NIMET) should be responsible for Weather Forecasting Services (WFS), Applied Meteorological Services (AMS), and Research and Training (R&T) along with its numerous directorates. Its services will be available to all transportation modes and other industries.

The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nwuba said, should be made to  report to the department of Navigation Services while all Colleges of Technology and Universities of Aviation shall report to the Transport Ministry’s Education department.

“To make a success of the proliferation of airports of Nigeria, the NCAA must create a new certification process for airlines that operate commercial services with 19 or less seats. These airlines shall have navigation services waived and landing fees removed. Their total landing shall not exceed 25 percent to Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt. Their schedule and fares shall be approved by the NCAA’s economic regulation department at all times and designed to ensure 75 percent of their flights are-to other than the identified four airports.

“All private flights operated with a turbine or piston aircraft with less than 8 people onboard not carrying paying passengers shall not pay navigation or landing fees. This is to grow the general aviation sector, including the development of pilots and other sectors such as banner towing, agro services etc.

“Nigeria shall have three gateway hubs to which international carriers (operating outside of Africa) may operate to and from; these shall include Abuja, Lagos and Enugu. For Airlines operating out of the African continent, the number of available international airports shall increase to include Kano, Ilorin, Port Harcourt and Calabar. Nigerian airlines may however operate international flights from any airport designated as international from Nigeria as may be agreed in the effective bilateral agreements.”

Under the incoming government, he called for the establishment of an airline distribution system based on international standards that will enable the holder of a Nigerian airline ticket to exchange it for the same destination on another airline if the flight is cancelled or delayed for a period to be established.

“In a bid to grow the commercial aviation sector more effectively, the Government may decide to establish a national carrier as well as designate some domestic airlines as flag carriers. In this bid, the government must emphasize the protection of private airlines and do what it must to ensure that they thrive. The national carrier must enter code sharing agreements with domestic private airlines and shall not operate any domestic service or service within West Africa.”

 


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