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
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.