Aviation analysts predict slow growth, want improved security, facilities
AS a new year begins, aviation industry stakeholders have said there is a need for the Federal Government to focus on improved airport infrastructure, security and training of critical personnel, areas that have been neglected in the past years.
Even as they noted that there were no major achievements in 2019 with the industry left to float freely, they predicted that there would be slow growth in the sector this year.
The Chief Executive Officer, Aglow Aviation Support Services, Mr Tayo Ojuri, said the aviation industry would likely witness a slow growth due to the state of the economy.
He said in positioning the industry for growth, the government must take strategic steps in the development of airports.
Ojuri noted that the first major step should be the concession of the airports and establishment of a national carrier.
In 2015, when the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, first came into office, he appraised the industry, identified challenges such as inadequate safety, security and surveillance equipment across airports, obsolete airport infrastructure, high debt of domestic airlines and ageing workforce of aviation agencies and created a road map to address the challenges.
The minister had stated that the Aviation Sector Road Map was aimed at creating an enabling environment for the industry to thrive.
Under the road map, the minister said there would be concession of airports, establishment of a national carrier, establishment of agro-allied/cargo terminal and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Facility, among others.
Stakeholders however said none of the projects had been achieved in the last four to five years while no serious attempt was made towards executing the projects in 2019.
“I’m disillusioned. By now, we should have passed the issue of national carrier, concession, airlines problems, which are now compounded, and even airport security,” Aviation security expert,
Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), said.
He stated that the only area where the industry seemed to have made significant progress was in accident and incident reporting and safety recommendations.
“But even at that, how many of these recommendations are implemented to prevent future occurrence? These are some of the things that we need to look into if we must move forward as an industry and a nation,” he said.
Ojikutu however stated that 2020 offered the Federal Government and other stakeholders the opportunity to make amends and move the industry forward.
He said the government should hasten the concession of airports to make them more viable.
He said, “There are about 22 airports in the country and out of the number, only two: the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, are viable.
“What the government needs to do is to classify the airports according to their viability, put the necessary infrastructure in place and let airlines help to develop them. We should also stop allowing foreign airlines to feast on our viable airports by reducing their frequencies, restricting their flights to one or two airports and allowing our domestic carriers to partner with them.”
On security, Ojikutu said the government would only be able to address the lapses at airports if it established a unitary autonomous agency to control airport security as provided in Annex 17 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation regulations.
He explained that airports should be seen as border posts like other entry points into the country and be treated accordingly with special attention from the Federal Government.
According to him, the issue of stowaways and security breaches on runways are becoming embarrassing for the country.
“Airport security should be taken away from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. It should be a duty for the government. The Federal Government needs to see the airports as border points and enable an agency that is security-inclined to take charge,” he added.
A former Director of Operations at the defunct Nigeria Airways, Capt. Dele Ore, said for the industry to perform better in the coming years, the issue of human capital development must be taken seriously.
According to Ore, even if the government puts in place the required infrastructure, humans will be needed to drive it.
He said, “The ground rules and standards of ICAO can only be maintained by trained personnel. So, the most important thing is that there must a regulation to stop people from doing what they are not trained to do.
“The industry can only prosper if the right people are in place among the airlines, the agencies and other service providers. It is an area that is often not talked about but the infrastructure and security will be handled by humans who should be trained to do so.”
Ore said through training and human capital development the younger generation would be empowered to take over from an ageing workforce.
Aviation analyst and the Chief Executive Officer, Belujane konsult, Mr Chris Aligbe, said the industry would show remarkable improvement in 2020 based on expectations that the minister of aviation would overcome roadblocks to his efforts towards floating a national carrier and achieving the airport concession.
“These are the two keys to unlock the sleeping industry,” Aligbe said.
He said based on the avowed commitment of the minister, stakeholders were hopeful that the industry would fare better going forward.
•L-R: Company Secretary, Sigma Pensions, Mrs Mojisola Oyewole; Chief Compliance Officer, Sigma Pensions, Mr Arinze Ononwu; Executive Director, Operations, Sigma Pensions, Mr Afolabi Afolayan; Senior Vice President, Sigma Pensions, Mr Michael Orekoya; and Head, Business Development Division (North), Mrs Nafisah Buba, during Sigma Pensions ‘Walk to Live’ exercise in Abuja …recently.