The aviation industry is one of the critical components of any nation’s industrial advancement. Internationally, the level of its development, performance and viability is a standard barometer by which investors assess the respective nation’s preparedness and capacity to participate in global business. It is one of the considerations for Foreign Direct Investment. Travel and mobility are key components of the ease of doing business. Most developed economies pay particular attention to aviation development, Nigeria inclusive.
Over the years, Nigeria has strived very hard to develop its aviation sector to ensure viability, sustainability and affordability. Aside from facilities development, there is a need for adequate regulatory environment, competitive operators, safety and passenger convenience.
Among the key governmental agencies involved in charting the path and sustaining the implementation of world best practice in Nigeria are FAAN, NAMA and NCAA. Many casual stakeholders (especially air travellers) are oblivious of the demarcation of duties and responsibilities among these agencies. This ignorance, incidentally, serves a good purpose of forcing coercion in their activities to the good of the overall performance.
According to its mission statement, the FAAN, which is the key business player of government in this industry, is specifically “to develop and profitably manage customer-centric airport facilities for safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world-class standards of quality.” In pursuit of this mission, the institution must necessarily think Safety First! Next is Regulations, Efficiency, Passenger Comfort, Standards, etc.
It is against this backdrop that anyone can reasonably assess the performance of the FAAN Management. It is also with this background that this writer is poised to review the One-Year Scorecard of the new FAAN managing director, Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu.
The man, Captain Yadudu, is a veteran of the aviation industry. His checkered career is littered with success milestones in aircraft operations as well as administration. An ICAO/ACI-accredited international airport professional, the landmarks are too many to enumerate here, more so as that is not the direct objective of this article. However, it is pertinent to say that his coming into the current office was a highly welcome development that indicated the Federal Government’s genuine interest in reformation and ascendancy to the ‘next level’.
Captain Yadudu is an insider whose immediate past positioning as the director of airport operations (DAO), of the FAAN prepared him in advance for this new responsibility. Among his specifically noticeable personal traits are meticulousness , professionalism, patriotism, competence, dexterity, cognate experience and interpersonal skills.
He had previously marshalled the project that led to the aerodromes certifications of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in 2017.
A pilot by training (captain on the B747, Citation Sovereign and the Learjet 45XR ) with over 7,000hrs of flying time, Captain Yadudu, incidentally, is an experienced licensed aircraft maintenance engineer (avionics). He gives the kind of confidence the layman would have when his chauffeur is also a certified auto mechanic.
Upon assuming office, Captain Yadudu identified the key areas that would form the focal points of his administration – human capacity creation, development and utilization; infrastructure upgrade and maintenance and improvement in processes and procedures.
In the last one year, a lot has happened within these elements under his jurisdiction that are worthy of note and highly commendable.
In the first instance, continuous training/capacity building of staff, especially those in the aviation security, fire and rescue, operations, safety and engineering departments, has received a new impetus. The big idea is to train a first set of 50 staff up to instructor standard. These pioneers will be responsible for cascading the knowledge garnered across the entire staff, in each functional area. This is in recognition of the need to continually bring staff up to date with emerging technologies and best practice, without necessarily expending so much on foreign training.
Another notable achievement is the upgrade of the FAAN Training School at MMIA, Lagos, to world class standard. The school is now an ICAO-accredited aviation security training centre, which is further primed to attaining the ICAO trainer status. Currently, it is a hosting facility for ACI and ICAO training programmes. It is interesting to note that several of such programmes have since been held at the centre, to the delight of stakeholders.
Before his appointment, Captain Yadudu had prepared extensively ahead of every eventuality by proactively identifying gaps and actionable developments in the entire FAAN jurisdiction. He had mapped out needs for reforms and development in the areas of safety, security, comfort, confidence and competence of the 8,000-strong staff.
As a follow-up on this agenda, he has taken a lot of steps towards elevating the welfare of staff in the areas of medical care and education of children of staff as immediate measures. In medical care, the FAAN Hospital at Lagos Airport has been seriously elevated in terms of installation of world-class equipment and service level. The services are rendered free-of-charge to all FAAN staff and stakeholders. Plans are now underway to replicate this across the FAAN regions nationwide. Medical supplies have also been decentralised to enable the various airports to be more responsive and flexible in attending to the specific needs of staff and other stakeholders. The medical services upgrade will also go a long way in ensuring easier certification of the nation’s airports.
In terms of education of staff children, Captain Yadudu has set in motion the process for establishment of university education scholarships for the top five scholars of staff children from each of the federal regions. This is to encourage academic excellence and assist FAAN staff with the burden of child education cost.
In his agenda for improved safety, security, passenger comfort and excellent ambience, a number of coordinated actions are already on-going. The moribund central cooling system at the MMIA has been awarded for refurbishment to the OEMs. Airfield lighting at the Lagos aerodrome has been upgraded, The passenger boarding bridges at the MMIA have been awarded for revival and upgrade to world class, while approval has been secured for immediate resurfacing of the taxiway Bravo linking the domestic and international wings.
Another major milestone is the successful scientific management of the project that led to the dispersal of the threatening colonies of wildlife (especially several species of wild birds). This wildlife had constituted ‘resident hazards’ in the critical flight path of aircraft for decades. The success lessons are currently being replicated at appropriate locations across the nation’s aerodromes. The procurement and deployment of scientific bird/wildlife hazard management equipment is the next-level proactive step being pursued to sustain this achievement.
In further pursuit of the infrastructure development objective, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport runway, Enugu, was closed for rehabilitation and work is at an advanced stage preparatory to re-opening.
In the area of blocking leakages and loopholes to revenue generation and operational efficiency, FAAN, under Captain Yadudu, has beamed its searchlight on the Airport Road toll operations, with a view to upscaling the revenue generated from such operations across the country. Although this is still work in progress, there is continuous engagement of critical stakeholders to ensure proper coordination and constructive collaboration towards infrastructure development.
Another initiative taken by the Captain Yadudu administration at FAAN is the establishment of a working committee to review the viability of all existing airports. The idea is to identify and implement the required actions and activities to promote patronage of these facilities for both passenger, charter and cargo businesses.
In furtherance of this initiative, FAAN has adopted the Airport Service Quality Protocol (an initiative of the Airport Council International). This is to ensure an upgraded travel experience for all passengers. The protocol captures data relating to ease-of-connection, ambience, washroom quality, business and executive lounges conditions, etc.
In his quest to ensure adequate feedback and input from the entire staff, Captain Yadudu has established an initiative, whereby a dedicated telephone line is available for direct link to him. This cuts the red tape and allows direct incident reporting and grievance resolution. This initiative keeps even the management cadre on their toes and ensures improved performance across board.
In order to ensure a three-dimensional feedback and self-priming system, a hotline has also been opened to third parties – customers, operators, regulators and all external stakeholders through which complaints, suggestions, general enquiries, etc, can be channelled directly to Captain Yadudu’s office, thereby taking direct responsibility for remedies and solutions to specific issues raised by stakeholders. With this new initiative, every Nigerian will be involved in fashioning out the new Nigerian aviation industry of our collective dreams!
All these rollercoaster achievements within a year are quite commendable, especially when viewed against the backdrop of what obtains in most governmental agencies in Nigeria as we have come to be used to. We are observing with keen interest the coming of another firebrand. We hope and pray that this initial momentum will be sustained throughout his tenure and beyond.
We all must admit that the game-changing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic took most systems unawares, regardless of the presence or absence of any business continuity/pandemic or emergency response plan. In fact, the acceptable new-normal today is that life will not remain the same. The aviation industry is no exception. This is why FAAN, under the leadership of Captain Yadudu, has marshalled out a new protocol for managing the challenges of COVID-19, in conjunction with all aviation players. This protocol was designed and harmonised two months in advance of the planned re-opening of commercial flights. This process has empowered the timely implementation of key components (physical and procedural adjustments).
Some noticeable changes, under the new protocol, include canopy sheds at airport gateways to give comfort to travellers while screening is ongoing; glass shields at all counters to serve as demarcation between airline and airport officials and travellers. This is to prevent direct contact and avoid the high infection rates being experienced by staff of some banks.
FAAN has also developed sensitisation jingles in English, Pidgin, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo for the benefit of target audiences. These will educate passengers on the new rules, in addition to flight announcements every 30 minutes before each operation.
Captain Yadudu has also mandatorily ensured that the entire 8,000 staff strength of FAAN undergo two key online courses with the World Health Organisation. These courses, namely, Operational Consideration for Managing COVID-19 Cases and Outbreaks in Aviation and COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control, will add to the preparedness for a new normal in the aviation industry, before resumption of regular flight operations. The NCAA, on its part, has marshalled out a full programme of aircraft maintenance re-certification and dry run exercise, to ensure airworthiness.
So, dear Nigerians, get ready to be safely served in this COVID-19 era of Nigerian aviation.
Like the popular saying, success is a journey. As the days progress, it will be interesting to observe how the FAAN manages its successes and possibly scales up on them. It will certainly be interesting to review and compare results at the end of the second year of the life of this administration. Nigeria must be great again!
•Aibangbe, a media and public relations consultant, wrote from Lagos; [email protected]