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Monday, 29 October 2012 00:00
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An industry in distress (II): Aberration in the aviation ministry

The Ministry of Aviation and its officials have been beating their chests over the country's attainment of FAA Category one Safety Status in the past 16 months if not more.

Thanks to tireless efforts of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in this direction. However, one would have been giving kudos to the Ministry and by extension, the government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan. But what do experience?

A Ministry embroiled in direct contract formulations executions instead of allowing the agencies empowered by the Acts of Parliament to carry out one of their statutory functions.

As the supervisory organ of government, the Ministry is charged among others the formulation of policies for the development of the industry and ensure the execution of such policies by the concerned agency(ies).

What is presently happening is a total departure from the statutory duties of the ministry.
At every beck and call, heads of the agencies are summoned to converge in the Minister's office on issues that are better left for the agencies to tackle and only report back via a memo and if there is any critical reason for further explanation, it is then and only then that the concerned chief executive can be asked or summoned by the Minister to shed more light.

A situation whereby all the chief executives of the agencies-that is-Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority of Nigeria, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, the Accident Investigation Bureau and Nigerian College of Aviation Technology are always summoned by the Minister to her office does not augur well for the day-to-day administration of the agencies.

The Minister cannot under any guise assume the direct administration of these agencies. It is outside her portfolio.

It is on record that both the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Aviation invited the Minister to give accounts on several issues ranging from the contract on the re-modeling of the so called 11 Airports out of which the President approved $60m from the BASA Account in addition to over N600m for the re-construction of the General Aviation Terminal in Lagos.

Up to date the Minister has refused to respond to the inquiries from the national legislature. Simply put, the Minister was been asked to furnish the legislature with details of contractors handling the projects, the construction engineers, the process leading to the choice of the preferred contractor, how many contractors bidded for the job, was there an advertisements calling for tenders as required by law and several other questions bothering on due process as stipulated in the country's statute.

If the Minister can brush aside all the aforementioned legal requirements and nobody in the presidency dare raises an eyebrow, then the country is in serious problems.

What the scenario as pictured above is no other than-We are in a dire strait. Can a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be acting outside the constitution which she swore to protect and uphold as an officer of the State? 

What this portend is simply a descent to the State of Anarchy where a Minister is above the law and in the realm of that popular thriller film titled- NICO ABOVE THE THE LAW.
The President should not allow this scenario to continue so that we don't descend to a state of lawlessness in all other sectors of the economy. The Aviation Minister in the current dispensation must be checkmated before it is too late.

Today, foreign airlines that ought to be making our airports a very busy hub aftermath of our attainment of FAA Cat 1 are not patronizing neither the Lagos or Abuja airports as expected but rather make the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana their choice business portal in the sub-region. Has anybody bothered to ask the Aviation Minister why this is so?

Foreign airlines can only operate into an environment where they can make some marginal profits, even as things are presently, domestic operations are near comatose and yet we gloss over their plights.

Today, at the Lagos airport, landing and take-off of foreign airlines can only be noticed late in the evenings and sometimes early in the morning. Larger parts of the afternoon in Lagos or Abuja are bereft of flight operation activities and the Ministry of Aviation is happy about this development in an airport that is supposed to be 24 hours active.

Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana  without FAA Cat 1 categorization is 24 hours active. No dull moment. Why is MMIA that is supposed to be developed into a hub in the west Africa sub-region is less active for the larger parts of the afternoon. Why are foreign airlines flocking to Kotoka International Airport, Accra instead of MMIA, Lagos and a Minister is happy applauding him/herself of  been an achiever through airport re-modeling. If you pride yourself of re-modeling airport terminals and airlines are not patronizing your facility, what joy do you derive from that? What impact has the re-modeling made on the nation's economy?

Last year, a committee was set up to look into ways of assisting airlines- both domestic and foreign-especially in reducing the cost of Aviation Fuel that form a little above 40 per cent of their operational costs as a liter of the fuel cost N96 in Ghana, N65 in Libya with all the crisis, N130 in Benin, our next door neighbour and in Nigeria between N180 and N250 per liter depending on the point of purchase. The Minister on assumption of office set up a committee to look into the problems be-devilling the airlines so as to find solutions, especially to the high cost of Aviation Fuel.

Today, one year after, nothing has been heard of the committee nor its report and recommendations.

• Culled from NigerianAviationnews