Aviation agencies merger: ‘Nigeria risks ICAO ban’
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.