Avi­a­tion agencies merger: ‘Nigeria risks ICAO ban’

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Daniel Adugbo

Mixed re­ac­tions have con­tin­ued to trail govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to merge the Nige­rian Airspace Man­age­ment Agency (NAMA), the Nige­rian Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity (NCAA) as ex­perts say the de­ci­sion is in­ter­na­tion­ally un­ac­cept­able.

The federal govern­ment had on Mon­day ac­cepted the rec­om­men­da­tion that NAMA, NCAA, and NIMET be merged into a new body while their re­spec­tive en­abling laws are to be amended ac­cord­ingly to re­flect the merger.

Ac­cord­ing to the white paper is­sued by govern­ment on the re­port of the Steve Oron­saye-led Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee on the Re­struc­tur­ing and Ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion of pub­lic paras­tatals, com­mis­sions and agencies, ap­proval for the merger of these agencies is based on govern­ment’s bid to re­struc­ture com­mis­sions and agencies for ef­fi­ciency.

The govern­ment, how­ever, re­jected the pri­vati­sa­tion of the Federal Air­ports Author­ity of Nigeria (FAAN) in view of the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.

Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion is com­ing barely a week af­ter of­fi­cials from the US Federal Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FAA) con­cluded a manda­tory re-as­sess­ment of Nigeria’s avi­a­tion sec­tor for the re­ten­tion of the Cat­e­gory One safety sta­tus given to the coun­try in 2010.

In­dus­try ex­perts say the merger de­ci­sion must not stand be­cause it is in­ter­na­tion­ally not ob­tain­able any­where in the world and in all ram­i­fi­ca­tions is against the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ICAO) stan­dards.

ICAO is the um­brella world body for avi­a­tion safety and a spe­cialised agency of the United Na­tions that cod­i­fies the prin­ci­ples and tech­niques of in­ter­na­tional air nav­i­ga­tion and fos­ters the plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment of in­ter­na­tional air trans­port to en­sure safe and or­derly growth.

A Nige­rian, Dr Olu­muyiwa Ba­batunde Aliu, cur­rently heads ICAO coun­cil as pres­i­dent.

This lat­est de­ci­sion, ex­perts say, apart from ridi­cul­ing Nigeria poses grave con­se­quence for in­ter­na­tional ap­proval rat­ings and as­sess­ments for the coun­try’s avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

Pres­i­dent of the Avi­a­tion Round­table, an avi­a­tion think­tank, Cap­tain Dele Ore, said the group is shocked by govern­ment’s ac­tion, call­ing for an im­me­di­ate re­ver­sal of the ac­tion.

“It is an aber­ra­tion and it is go­ing to em­bar­rass the people and govern­ment of Nigeria sooner or later. This sin­gu­lar ac­tion has thrown us back again into 1995 era when we were in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion due to bad ad­vice and we are telling the whole world to­day that what­ever it is sooner or later ICAO is go­ing to give us the red card be­cause what we are do­ing is com­pletely against all the stan­dards laid down by ICAO.

“You can­not mix the reg­u­la­tory agency, that is the reg­u­la­tory author­ity, with ser­vice provider. Who is reg­u­lat­ing who? The civil avi­a­tion act is very clear that the NCAA will reg­u­late the nav­i­ga­tion in this coun­try, it will reg­u­late the air­port, it will reg­u­late also the me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal ser­vices. When you now put them to­gether un­der one um­brella, who is go­ing to reg­u­late who?”

Also speak­ing on the is­sues, Engr. Kyari Sheri, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Finum Avi­a­tion Ser­vices said merg­ing these agencies is a wrong move which must not be al­lowed to stand. “I think it is one thing that the govern­ment should try as much as pos­si­ble to re­verse as quickly as pos­si­ble. What is on ground is an in­ter­na­tional prac­tice so Nigeria should not be­gin to drag us back to what we used to be in those days.

“In terms of safety, there is no way an or­gan­i­sa­tion can reg­u­late it­self and it is not just pos­si­ble,” he said.

Ex­perts are also crit­i­cal about merg­ing an agency like NiMeT with other spe­cialised avi­a­tion agencies whose func­tion span be­yond avi­a­tion.

The Act which es­tab­lishes NiMeT (the NIMET ACT 2003) charges the agency with the re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­vise govern­ment on all as­pects of me­te­o­rol­ogy; project, pre­pare and in­ter­pret govern­ment pol­icy in the field of me­te­o­rol­ogy; and to is­sue weather (and cli­mate) fore­casts for the safe op­er­a­tions of air­craft, ocean go­ing ves­sels and oil rigs.

The agency in re­cent times has con­tin­ued to pro­vide weather ser­vices to other weather-sen­si­tive sec­tors like agri­cul­ture, con­struc­tion, health, hy­dro­elec­tric power gen­er­a­tion, oil and gas, ship­ping, man­u­fac­tur­ing, dis­tribu­tive trade, sports plan­ning, wa­ter re­sources man­age­ment, en­vi­ron­ment and dis­as­ter man­age­ment among oth­ers.

In­stead of a merger, an­a­lysts ad­vice that govern­ment strength­ens the agency to be a commercial en­tity like the Met Of­fice, UK’s na­tional weather ser­vice, which op­er­ates on a commercial ba­sis un­der set tar­gets.

Steven Orosanye

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