BUSI­NESS Air trans­port would be cheaper, if... - Rec­tor

Daily Trust - - AVIATION - From Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu, Ilorin Cap­tain Ab­dul­Mumeen Nuhu Ab­dulka­reem

What does the birth of Ilorin Avi­a­tion Col­lege por­tend for the coun­try?

We have con­trib­uted, we have put in nine pi­lots, li­censed commercial pi­lots in the in­dus­try, sev­eral pri­vate pi­lot li­cences (PPLs) be­cause we don’t count that as a full commercial pi­lot and, in­ter­est­ingly, if you re­mem­ber on the grad­u­a­tion day, all of them have been em­ployed be­cause the sys­tem just sucked them up. We have so many for­eign pi­lots. We are not against pi­lots com­ing from all over the world be­cause as a pro­fes­sional the pi­lot can fly any­where. But there should be a ca­pac­ity build­ing for the youths in Nigeria, for Nigeria to in­vest in its youths and in­vest­ment in its youths is an op­por­tu­nity for a bet­ter coun­try. Ev­ery pi­lot you trained, you are mak­ing the so­ci­ety and that in­di­vid­ual to be re­spon­si­ble to at least 10 people in this coun­try. So it is not only pi­lot, we have flight dis­patch­ers, we have cabin crew, we have en­gi­neers, main­te­nance en­gi­neers, we have other re­lated cour­ses. Ev­ery­one you look at the peak, they are age­ing and people are not build­ing. So air­lines were poach­ing from one air­line to the other. When you fin­ish poach­ing and there is noth­ing to poach again, you have no choice than to start call­ing ex­pa­tri­ates into this. We had a prob­lem ini­tially of hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced young Nige­ri­ans who want to be­come flight in­struc­tors, the ones we started with were four, they have never been taught with Di­a­mond Air­craft. Right now, as I am talk­ing to you, Kwara State, through the In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion Col­lege, Ilorin, we have seven Nige­rian youths in South-Africa and all of them would be here be­fore the mid­dle of May and all of them would be work­ing here. So to­tally we would be hav­ing 10 Nige­rian pi­lots as in­struc­tors. You can come, if you find a for­eigner, it is may be be­cause of his ex­pe­ri­ence but not be­cause we can­not find in­struc­tors. We have stopped that.

What are the chal­lenges con­fronting the in­sti­tu­tion?

The ma­jor prob­lem is fi­nanc­ing, avi­a­tion is not cheap. That is why the last time we met the gover­nor, last year, he said we need to be on our own this year, we thought he was jok­ing. He said the govern­ment is not in the busi­ness of run­ning busi­ness, it is in the busi­ness of fa­cil­i­tat­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment. Kwara State has done what it could do in cre­at­ing this en­abling en­vi­ron­ment by build­ing the school, fa­cil­i­tat­ing the school. He is say­ing that if it is equip­ment, yes, if it is bud­geted,

Cap­tain Ab­dul­Mumeen Nuhu Ab­dulka­reem, Rec­tor of the Ilorin In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion Col­lege, is an ex­pe­ri­enced pi­lot who holds the Air­line Trans­port Pi­lot Li­cence (ATPL), the high­est pi­lot li­cence in the world. He trained in Amer­ica in 1981 and has been a pi­lot for 32 years. He worked in sev­eral places among which are Nige­rian Air­ways, Sky power Ex­press Air­ways, and Nigeria Col­lege of Avi­a­tion Tech­nol­ogy, Zaria as Chief Flight In­struc­tor. In this in­ter­view with Cap­tain Ab­dulka­reem speaks on sundry is­sues in avi­a­tion in­dus­try and the avi­a­tion col­lege in Ilorin. Ex­cerpts:

they can as­sist us in buy­ing equip­ment. And right now the state govern­ment is look­ing to dis­in­vest in this col­lege. From Jan­uary 2014 till date, what we make, we are eat­ing. We don’t get a kobo from the state govern­ment in terms of sub­ven­tion to pay salary or to pay for ser­vices. But for equip­ment, I will run back to His Ex­cel­lency, through my board and say, ‘please buy me more equip­ment’ and I have to jus­tify that, how? By telling him that I am hav­ing these in­takes and they are go­ing to pay me, so, so, so amount, you un­der­stand me? Or­di­nary man on the street might not see the value but there is a value. Kwara State has be­come what it has be­come re­cently by tak­ing this big step. We have some other places, some other states, even the Federal Govern­ment send­ing people out­side the coun­try with thou­sands and thou­sands and hun­dreds of dol­lars to train as pi­lots, bring that money into Nigeria, see what the Nigeria Air Force did, that is what we call cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity and I hope ev­ery state govern­ment or ev­ery cor­po­rate body be it avi­a­tion, be it in­di­vid­ual or what­ever, the well to do in our so­ci­ety should con­trib­ute, spon­sor one stu­dent, even if it is two per pri­vate pi­lot li­cense (PPL), which is less than N2m. To be a commercial pi­lot is N7.8m. Ideally, the bank should give stu­dents loan, give them a soft way of pay­ing, let’s say a year af­ter they grad­u­ate and start work­ing. The bank can work with the worker’s em­ployer, we can even fa­cil­i­tate for him to get em­ploy­ment and he will be pay­ing monthly. It is done all over the world. In Nigeria, no­body will give you N10mil­lion with­out ask­ing for N30m in two years or three years. The sys­tem is to the ad­van­tage of the youth, the ad­van­tage of ed­u­ca­tion. That is ca­pac­ity build­ing and that is what we should be do­ing for the youth.

How will you de­scribe the Nigeria’s avi­a­tion sec­tor?

It is un­der-utilised. I see no rea­son why some­body would be driv­ing from Kano to La­gos if he is not on va­ca­tion. If the sys­tem works, it would be cheaper to fly by air than go­ing by road. It would be cheaper. Look at low cost car­rier in Europe; can you say you would be driv­ing to Switzer­land from Lon­don? With 50 pounds, you can go to Switzer­land. And with 50 pounds, you can­not fuel your car to go to Switzer­land.

Are you say­ing it should be sub­sidised?

No, we are not ask­ing for sub­sidy. The ques­tion is that if the sys­tem works prop­erly, the in­vest­ment is there. I am not ask­ing for sub­sidy. If the in­vest­ment is there, air trans­port will be cheaper. There is a pol­icy that tricks my mind I don’t even know how to ex­plain it. The govern­ment gives waiver for air­lines to bring spareparts and air­craft with­out cus­tom duty. I bring air­planes to train the man­power that would fly in that air­line, I pay duty. As a train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion we pay duty, they say we are not part of that waiver. I don’t un­der­stand the trans­for­ma­tion agenda of the Federal Govern­ment. How much is the air­craft? Now the air­lines are get­ting in­ter­ven­tion fund, no­body is think­ing how to train those people, in­ter­ven­tion fund to carry our money to go out be­cause ev­ery aero­plane you buy, of course the money goes out. But for ev­ery train­ing I do in this coun­try, 70 per cent, 80 or 99 per cent of that money re­mains in this coun­try. The only time that money goes out is when I am buy­ing equip­ment be­cause we don’t pro­duce aero­plane in this coun­try. If air­craft is pro­duced and as­sem­bled in this coun­try, we would buy it but govern­ment should look into train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions and give them waiver on im­por­ta­tion of air­craft. We are not say­ing govern­ment should give you in­ter­ven­tion but govern­ment should fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess to loans that are soft with mora­to­rium. Whether it is over­sight, I don’t know, but the govern­ment re­ally short changes ca­pac­ity build­ing be­cause if govern­ment is fair and just in its trans­for­ma­tion agenda, pol­icy mak­ers should look at giv­ing air train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions a waiver. Money is go­ing into South Africa daily. I just came back from South Africa, I just em­ployed seven Nige­rian pi­lots who are just go­ing to do train­ing there as in­struc­tors. Do I need to? I can em­ploy my own prod­ucts, I can em­ploy prod­ucts from Zaria or from any other school that is based in Nigeria, we can share our own man­power here, but the en­vi­ron­ment is against train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions in avi­a­tion in­dus­try. We don’t have prob­lem with the reg­u­la­tors be­cause we are all pro­fes­sion­als, we must fol­low the reg­u­la­tions. There is dif­fer­ence be­tween the NCAA reg­u­la­tion and en­abling en­vi­ron­ment by the govern­ment.

A lot of people are clam­our­ing for the re­sus­ci­ta­tion of Nige­rian Air­ways, what is your ad­vice in this re­gard?

I came back to Nigeria just be­cause I was em­ployed by the Nige­rian Air­ways in 1985. A lot of things killed the Air­ways but I will not talk on be­half of the Air­ways or the pol­icy mak­ers then. But we all know that govern­ment agency of that mag­ni­tude be­comes like Fa­ther Christ­mas to the govern­ment. When govern­ment pays for goods and ser­vices to that or­gan­i­sa­tion prob­a­bly it would last longer. Air France is there, Lufthansa is there, they might be strug­gling, Swiss Air is there, they are all backed by govern­ment, Italia is there, cur­rently now, Emi­rate and Qatar, Air Malaysia, Air Sin­ga­pore, they are there, Air Ethiopia. Tell me what is there in Ethiopia apart from the air­line. Do you know how much rev­enue they are mak­ing, they have 787, the lat­est Boe­ing air­craft, and they are a Boe­ing cen­tre. Ethiopia Air­line has never folded up. The main­te­nance stan­dard has never been folded up. It is to be hon­est and put the pol­icy that would last, that is it. Nigeria should try and build some­thing that would last. I am not a politi­cian, I am a tech­no­crat, people should think be­yond now or the leader. For­get if it is my en­emy that is build­ing an air­line in this coun­try so long as that air­line is for the ben­e­fit of Nige­rian pub­lic and to the hu­man­ity.

What prospect do you en­vis­age for avi­a­tion train­ing in Nigeria?

We look for­ward for people to come in. We are go­ing into En­gi­neer­ing. KWASU (Kwara State Univer­sity) is do­ing aero­space and aero­nau­ti­cal en­gi­neer­ing and NCAA has given us a blue­print on how to in­te­grate our­selves so that an aero­space en­gi­neer from KWASU would come out with air­craft main­te­nance en­gi­neer li­cence, a pi­lot from In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion Col­lege would come out with KWASU’s de­gree in avi­a­tion man­age­ment as a pi­lot. So, it is a win-win sit­u­a­tion for KWASU, for us and the in­dus­try. No­body is los­ing, ev­ery­body is gain­ing.

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