From Uche Usim, Abuja
Saleh Dunoma, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has 37 years of cognate experience in the aviation sector.
A 1979 graduate of Building Engineering from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dunoma had a brief stint in the public and private sectors before being employed in the Civil Engineering Department of the defunct Nigeria Airports Authority (NAA) in 1980. With the NAA mwtamorphosing into FAAN, Dunoma has since served the agency in various sensitive capacities. At various times, he acted as Airport Manager Kaduna Airport and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport respectively. In 2000 he was appointed substantive Airport Manager, Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja, a position he held until he was reassigned in 2005 to the newly created Directorate of Aviation Security & Safety as the General Manager (Technology & Capacity Building). The diverse nature of his job in airport management provided him the unique opportunity of being exposed to several facets of operations. He was appointed Director of Engineering Services in February 2009.
On April 21 this year, President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed his appointment as the substantive MD/CEO of FAAN.
Dumoma is currently the African Regional President of Airport Council International (ACI), a body overseeing the safety and security of airports globally.
Despite receiving several awards including the National Productivity Award from President Muhammadu Buhari, the FAAN boss remains a quiet, humble and unassuming man.
In this exclusive interview with Daily Sun, held recently on the sidelines of a conference on Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) in Abuja, Dunoma speaks more about the dynamics of the nation’s aviation sector, his passion for the job and how prepared the aviation community is to receive drones that is rapidly gaining popularity globally.
FAAN has a central role to play in ensuring drones operate effectively and safely. We have safety and security systems. Any flying object ends up mostly in the airport. We are senior stakeholders in this and that is why you can see that we are participating in full. Not only that, we are also an integral part of the safety system. So, as far as the safety system is concerned, the activities of this RPAS is our business and same should be made known to everybody so that in safety planning, we can include them in it so that we don’t have issues with others flying objects around the airfield. The overall aim is to ensure safe drone operations in the country, especially within our airspace. We have to ensure drones don’t interfere with conventional aircraft operations. That is what the safety system I spoke about will ensure.
Drone Implementation Committee
The Minister of State, Aviation said a committee for the RPAS will be set up to handle the drones operations. It is going to be a very important committee because safe and secured operations are key. Nobody knows the owner of these drones. So, the committee would have a lot of responsibilities in bringing them together and integrating them in our safety system. The committee is going to play a very important role.
FAAN as you know has safety officers and ensures safe operations around the airport. Our safety members should participate in this, so that we can now bring together what is happening around the airport. Other stakeholders have to be brought on board because they have be integrated into what is happening around the airport with regards to RPAS.
We are ready! It is a continuous exercise and we are starting with two airports that is Abuja and Lagos. So immediately after that, we would move to other airports. So, we are waiting for the regulatory body to come and look it and do the certification. Our own is just preparation. We have prepared ourselves for the certification just like you want to write an examination. We are ready for the exams as we pass, they give us certificate.
Training for newly recruited fire fighters
Yes, they are going for training now. We have finished the first two batches and the third batch is on training now. This is the basic training, they would continue to be trained until they reach the level of specialization in the industry.
Safety of airports not owned by FAAN
We have our people there. You know we provide some level of staffing. It is mandatory we do that. Our staff are the people taking care of safety around those airports we do not own.
We generate our money and we spend our money, we are not dependent on government budgets.
The economy is down. So, we have seen a drop in passenger and flight operations into the airports and definitely that will affect our revenue. But so far, so good.
Yes! Our airports for cargo and agricultural produce are not yet ready. We are still working on them, but that does not mean that we cannot export cargo. We are exporting already. But the development of a full-fledged cargo terminals is not ready. But we are exporting through the cargo terminals of the various airports.
With the certification programme. Our our airports will continue to be safer in the next five to 10 years and we are going to develop infrastructure. As you are aware, our new terminal buildings will soon be ready. Once they are ready, that will be additional infrastructure and all that.
Sector’s contribution to GDP
The economic footprint of the aviation industry to the growth and development of our country is critical and measured by its contribution of US $8.2million to gross domestic product (GDP) annually, and supports more than 650,800 jobs, including tourism- related employment and the tax revenues generated by the sector and its supply chain.
However, the economic value created by the industry goes beyond the value captured by these measures.
But we have the potential to do more and for the country to attract more investment into the aviation industry, the government must provide enabling environment and work closely with industry players.
The government should curb the high taxes which stifle air transport growth and the development of modern and friendly airports in the country, addressing issues related to policy, civil aviation regulations, aeronautical charge regime, establishment of national carrier, establishment of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, development of agro-allied cargo infrastructure, and the template for airport concessions.
Government needs to rectify aviation policies so as to guarantee reliability and trust to contractual agreements on airport concessions and leases in other to attract the right investment and funding.
Nigeria is considered to be a good investment heaven by most foreign investors, but they are, however concerned by government inconsistent policies that could trap their investments. This challenge accounts for high insurance premium underwriters put on asset financing in Nigeria as it affects aircraft leasing, terminal management and other businesses. The country’s aviation sector will do better if all these issues are properly addressed. Industrial players in the sector should form clusters that would encourage the government to take a deeper look at issues bordering on aviation financing, regulations, policy and aeronautical charges to sustain the growth of the industry.
FAAN has a lot of projects undertaken under the Public Private Partnership. We recently commissioned an ultra modern car park for use at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. It is a six- level, 1,300 capacity car park that was built in partnership with Seymour Aviation Limited for a 30- year tenure on Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement. The facility came up very timely because it will improve passenger facilitation, and reduce the menace of indiscriminate parking within and around the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. That project, like many others, is testament of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with FAAN and Seymour Aviation. With the facility in place, we can only implore airport users to exercise caution while driving into the international airport.