Usman: Lo­cal Re­fin­ing, So­lu­tion to High Cost, Scarcity of Avi­a­tion Fuel

The Di­rec­tor of Nige­rian Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity, Cap­tain Muhtar Usman, spoke to Chinedu Eze on the high cost and scarcity of avi­a­tion fuel, say­ing the sit­u­a­tion may linger until the prod­uct is pro­duced lo­cally. He also spoke on mea­sures be­ing taken by t

THISDAY - - AVIATION -

When you be­came the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Nige­rian Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity (NCAA), the agency was fac­ing fi­nan­cial chal­lenges. Has the sit­u­a­tion im­proved and if it has, what did you do to grow a ro­bust fi­nan­cial sys­tem?

Fi­nan­cially when we took over, pre­cisely on Oc­to­ber 21, 2014, we wit­nessed a sit­u­a­tion whereby the staff and third party con­trac­tors were owed over a bil­lion naira in claims and huge debt pro­file re­spec­tively. One, we sat down and dis­cussed with the stake­hold­ers and came up with a pro­gramme of sched­ule of pay­ment. But most im­por­tantly, we had to look at the ar­eas of leak­ages ini­tially in or­der to stop or to re­duce the leak­ages so that at least we would be able to save the funds that oth­er­wise would have been lost. We tar­geted that the money saved would be used to take care of the claims.

How­ever, some of the claims were spu­ri­ous. We ver­i­fied them and those we were sat­is­fied were gen­uine were paid and over time we sta­bi­lized. Since that time we have been meet­ing our fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions, which in­clude salaries, con­trac­tors, as at when due. We also worked on how we would im­prove on the col­lec­tion of earn­ings that are due to us. It has been very chal­leng­ing work­ing on how to col­lect what is due to us with­out in­ter­rupt­ing the ser­vices. It is also very dif­fi­cult reg­u­lat­ing in an econ­omy that was go­ing through re­ces­sion. But we had to strike a bal­ance where pos­si­ble, re­duced the wastage and leak­ages, tried to im­prove sources of in­come. As you are aware, the civil avi­a­tion author­ity op­er­ates mainly on cost re­cov­ery. As you are also aware, NCAA is still be­ing put as a rev­enue gen­er­at­ing agency where we are ex­pected to pay cer­tain per­cent­age of what comes in to the agency into the fed­er­a­tion ac­count. We have been work­ing and gov­ern­ment has quite un­der­stood. I be­lieve we still have some small work to do in or­der to be able to over­come those issues.

When you came in some of the work­ers were not happy about so many things, es­pe­cially some over­seas train­ings that were stopped and there seemed to be a kind of clampdown on ex­pen­di­ture, was it that you jolted the sta­tus quo or they couldn’t align with your own phi­los­o­phy?

Well, as I men­tioned ear­lier, in try­ing to ad­dress the fi­nan­cial issues, we had to re­duce those wastages and also try to op­ti­mise the ap­pli­ca­tion of those funds. We pri­ori­tised manda­tory things first be­fore do­ing oth­ers. For ex­am­ple, in the area of train­ing, it is not that we have re­duced train­ing; far from it; we did more train­ing now than be­fore. The only difference is that some of those over­seas train­ings that were cost­ing us huge amount of money were do­mes­ti­cated. We do­mes­ti­cated some of those cour­ses. And it also gave us an op­por­tu­nity to mon­i­tor the qual­ity of those cour­ses be­cause the train­ing and stud­ies were be­ing and are still be­ing done in Nige­ria.

This saves huge re­sources be­cause the money you are go­ing to use to train, maybe, two peo­ple out­side Nige­ria; you may be able to train about 10 peo­ple with it lo­cally. So, far from it that we have re­duced the train­ings; we have re­ally in­creased the train­ings. This is be­cause one of our ma­jor cap­i­tal projects is train­ing. In NCAA we in­vest in hu­man be­ings. We are a reg­u­la­tory agency and so the qual­ity of the man­power and the quan­tity must be up to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. This is be­cause the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ICAO) re­quires that we at­tract and re­tain qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced man­power in suf­fi­cient num­ber and that is what we have been try­ing to do.

Usman

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