Government’s commitment to developing the nation’s aviation industry is underscored by the huge premium it places on air safety.
In a 2016 interview, the Managing Director of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Ahmed Kuru, captured what the fate of air travellers in the country would be were Arik and Aero Contractors allowed to go under. He said:
“We cannot afford for the two airlines to go under, the effect will be devastating for our aviation industry.”
Arguably, the two leading airlines in the country were almost caving in under huge debt burden owed financial institutions in the country hence AMCON took them over.
The takeover kept the two airlines in the sky. Their sustained operations averted a crisis of multiple dimensions in the nation’s aviation industry. That intervention signposts is one of the achievements of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in the aviation sector, according to assertions by multiple industry insiders.
Other achievements of the administration abound in this sector. One of such was the upgrade of the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja (NAIA).
Before the repair works, many leading international airlines threatened to boycott the route even as it was deemed a lucrative route. Many of the affected airlines lamented avoidable economic loss. They complained that the runway had severely damaged landing gears of their aircraft. Findings revealed that though the international airlines, among them British Airways and Emirates Airline threatened to boycott the route they did not. However, they stopped deploying bigger and newer modern aircraft reducing number of air traffic on the route, which came with revenue loss for the nation. Olumide
Ohunayo, former staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways, has this to say: “That is a runway that has been having issues for a long time and that has drawn so many complaints from airline operators as aircraft of major airlines always had their landing gear damaged due to the poor state of the runway level. The runway was repaired in 2017. The repair was completed in six weeks during which the runway was closed for the duration and all air traffic bound for the airport diverted to the Kaduna Airport. That is a record feat for the current administration.”
The repairs also impacted the Kaduna Airport. Government refurbished and upgraded its facilities to international standard even though it is of international cargo flights. Aniekan Utuk, a staff of the Nigerian Aviation College, Zaria, added: “In a way, the Buhari administration has done us well with the decision to repair the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.”
Government’s commitment to developing the nation’s aviation industry is underscored by the huge premium it places on air safety. Industry stakeholders noted that safety is paramount in the sector even as they maintained that safety is synonymous to the provision of all necessary navigational equipment at airports.
The current administration’s commitment to air safety in the country has manifested in a handful of initiatives that the administration has launched, funded and backed with uncommon political will to see it to completion for the benefit of Nigerians. Government has also demonstrated a commendable dedication to putting in place necessary infrastructure and policies needed to catalyse the aviation sector.
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) provides a concrete proof of the foregoing. Before now, air accidents were investigated at snail speed and when results were ready they were never released to the public leading to a recurrence of avoidable air mishap in the nation’s airspace. That narrative has changed at the bureau with the appointment of a new management.
Last October, the AIB released final reports of the Bristow Helicopters Sikorsky S-76c+ with registration number 5N-BGD, which crashed in August 2015, in the Oworonshoki area of Lagos. Three other reports were also released. They included that of the Pan African Airlines Nigeria Limited Bell 412 EP Helicopter with registration number 5N-BDZ, which crashed near the SEDCO Energy platform in July 2004; Emirates Boeing 777-200 aircraft with the registration number 5N-BOB, which occurred in July 2015.
Akin Olateru, the Commissioner for AIB, noted quite importantly that the objective of the reports was not to apportion blame but to avert future occurrences of the same accident. The current administration’s intervention in the sector transcends the shores of the country. For the first time in recent time, the country hosted two International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) events that traditionally takes place in Canada.
Coming soon after the country hosted the ICAO Symposium on Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) was a clear indication of the confidence that the global aviation industry was beginning to repose in the country’s aviation sector, and this is traceable to the commitment of the current administration to reposition the industry both locally and internationally.
Though some critics of the administration had questioned the economic benefits of hosting the two events, stakeholders in the industry insisted that the benefits were huge.
Interestingly, government’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. For the first time again, the country’s two leading airports were certified by ICAO. Nigeria has sought the certification for over 30 years but failed to get it, because previous governments failed to put in place needed facility thus, fell short of the criteria for awarding the certification.
The certification is very important for Nigeria, because the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Association (IFAPA) reviews airports on a continuous basis, evaluates their safety standards in accordance with ICAO regulations, and disseminates such information to their members all over the world. It is their evaluation that determines whether commercial airlines would agree to fly to certain airports or not.
Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muktar Usman, said at the time that Nigeria had become the only country in Africa to have its two airports certified in accordance with ICAO standard, and that the certifications had improved the ratings of the two airports in safety standards in international aviation circles.
With the certification of the Lagos and Abuja airports, Nigeria’s ratings had improved and the airports could serve as hubs in the West and Central Africa regions, given that they are the only certified airports in the two sub regions. Continuing with inherited projects has never been strong point of successive governments in the country. Many commentators have this on the spate of abandoned projects that dot the country’s landscape. The PMB administration is, however, changing the narrative, and across different sectors of the nation too.
The administration has ensured the completion of the Port Harcourt International Airport terminal and commissioned it for use. The project was initiated by former President Goodluck Jonathan with a loan facility from the Chinese government.In the same vein, this administration has paid half of the negotiated N44 billion terminal benefits owed former staff of the Nigerian Airways. The issue of the payment had lingered for 14 years as previous governments shied away from the issue.
The administration, however, decided to toe a different part on account that government is a continuum.
Aminu wrote from Zaria, Kaduna State