Avi­a­tion an­a­lysts pre­dict slow growth, want im­proved se­cu­rity, fa­cil­i­ties

The Punch - - TRANSPORT - Sto­ries: Mau­reen Ihua-maduenyi

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.

Photo: Sigma Pen­sions

•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.

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