By Louis Iba
STAKEHOLDERS in Nigeria’s aviation sector are raising fresh fears over its ageing workforce as well as shortage of requisite manpower in critical segments. They are also calling on the government and private sector to inject more funds into human capital development to meet global trends and technological advancement.
The issue of Nigeria’s aviation manpower challenges was raised during the recent audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) on the country as it was evident that while it got good grades for improvements in regulatory institutions and state of airport infrastructure, the same could not be said of its manpower capabilities, which were still considered inadequate.
Staff employment ratio into Nigeria’s aviation sector parastatals was adjudged critically flawed as the bulk of workers are non-technical staff who do mostly administrative, legal, public relations, purchase and finance jobs, while fewer staff are doing core technical jobs like engineering, repairs, maintenance, fire fighters, security, air traffic controllers and technicians.
Daily Sun investigation reveals that the ratio of technical to non-technical staff was about 40 to 60 per cent hence the need to reverse the ratio in favour of technical staff. A senior official at the Lagos airport told Daily Sun that Nigeria was in short supply of security personnel to man its airports.
“Aviation security and fire fighters are in short supply and airports are short staffed by these personnel,” said the official. “In most Nigerian airports, we now have a situation where most security staff are overworked and without any form of compensation. And the problem has to do with recruiting and training of more hands,” he added.
In most of the airport, aircraft and allied facilities deployed in Nigeria are now automated and stakeholders also raised concerns with the presence of so many expatriates in the industry doing repair and maintenance jobs on these machines.
Aviation analyst and former President of the Aviation Round Table, Capt. Dele Ore, in an interview told Daily Sun, that a situation where for over a decade requisite investments had not been done to train Nigerian manpower in line with evolving trends and technological advancements was unhealthy for the industry.
Stories by Louis Iba
PILOTS! Those are the men and women who man the cockpits of aircraft and they obviously command a lot of public respect. Piloting is one career that requires the highest form of self discipline, patience, punctuality and self confidence.
Safety – at all times in the course of a flight – remains a pilot’s watchword as he cares for the lives of passengers and other crew members on board the aircraft.
Today’s aircraft are mostly flown by a crew of two; a pilot, also known as the Captain, and the co-pilot, usually referred to as a First Officer. In the bid to get the best out of pilots, their remuneration in most airlines is considered the highest when compared to other professionals.
In Nigeria, there are two academies that cater for the training of pilots and allied professionals. The first is the Zaria-based Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), established in 1964, and the International Aviation College in Ilorin, Kwara State, which came on board with the admission of its pioneer students in 2012. Before then, many young Nigerians were trained in countries like the United States of America, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and South Africa.
For new cadets or trainees into these two academies, especially those who are just out of secondary schools, a good knowledge or flair for sciences is a must. And five O’Level credits which must include mathematics, physics and geography are the basic prerequisites for admission. But the academies also admit university or polytechnic graduates who want to pursue careers as pilots, notably from the science, medical or pharmaceutical faculties. Generally speaking, anyone can be trained to fly an aircraft.
No one says an art student cannot be a pilot. But an above average knowledge of science subjects like physics and mathematics is very important given that the concept behind the manufacture of an aircraft, how it takes off and lands, how the various parts work, how it is maintained, and all the safety processes involved in ensuring a safe flight for the crew and passengers are all science related. It would therefore be difficult for someone without strong background in the sciences to be a good pilot. Most pilot training schools fix a minimum age of 16 years for aspiring pilots to commence training.
But cadets insist the cost (school fees) could most times pose perhaps the greatest challenge to many aspiring students’ dream. Daily Sun caught up with two cadets at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, and they said that tuition which costs, more than any other factor, could make or mar the prospect of any aspiring pilot.
“At present, it costs about N7.5 million to train as a pilot at NCAT,” said Valerie Ashiekara, a female cadet pilot at NCAT.
“But that is relatively cheap; if you were to go outside Nigeria, the fee could go up to between N10 to N13 million equivalent depending on the country,” Ashiekara added.
In Nigeria, it is usually a one-year and six months training duration before cadets can be issued a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), which is usually the first licence obtained in order to fly any aircraft. A Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and a Diploma Certificate in Standard Piloting follows thereafter for those wishing to go further to train as commercial pilots. But it could last longer than that; it all depends on how well the cadet is able to pass both the practical flying and theoretical exams.
Holders of the CPL, however, still go further to train and be type-rated (a specialised certification course), which allows them to be masters on specific commercial aircraft types. Such trainings last from between four weeks to two months or more. Persons who want to fly for recreational purposes or as a hobby can get a PPL and end it there. But those set of pilots are only restricted to smaller types of aircraft and are never allowed to fly commercial aircraft.
Once admission is given and a trainee resumes in school, the main challenge normally faced is how to pass courses because the minimum score anyone can get in any subject to be considered as having passed that subject is 75 per cent.
Pilots’ remuneration in Nigeria
Salaries for newly employed (typically for fresh graduates but in this case First Officers) in Nigeria range from N600,000 to N800,000 monthly. Captains on the other hand, and depending on their years of service, could earn monthly salaries of up to N1.5 million.
Both Jethro Baka and Valerie Ashiekara shared their feelings with Daily Sun on the remuneration for pilots and other related merits.
“Though piloting appears to be risky, it is a career for only those with the passion and courage to fly. It may not be the best remunerated career but it is also not the least paying carrier,” Baka said.
“But if you have the passion to fly, it is a career that comes with lots of benefits, like you get to see the world and meet different peoples of the world as a pilot more than any other career option,” he said.
Ashiekara said as a woman, piloting brings in more income than any other paid job a woman could venture into. “I don’t know of any job that pays like this and allows you to enjoy your life. I am speaking as a woman,” she said.