Chidoka presents score card, unveils plan for national carrier
MINISTER of Aviation, Osita Benjamin Chidoka, has presented his scorecard after serving as minister for eight months. He was appointed Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on July 23, 2014, by the outgoing president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
At a ceremony held at Protea Hotel, on Isaac John Street, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, on Monday May 25, 2015, Chidoka while interacting with stakeholders in the aviation sector, x-rayed his performance within the few months he spent at the ministry and ticked his team a pass mark for providing the much needed road map to drive the aviation industry in the future.
He seized the opportunity to unveil his plan for a viable national carrier. According to him, for an airline to qualify as a national carrier “the ownership structure must be diversified”. It must be formed by multiple flag carriers, powered by institutional investors.
Also, the airline must have International Air Transport Association (IATA) certificate, International Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification, evidence of technical partnership and meet the minimum fleet size and equipment.”
He warned that no attempt should be made to involve privately owned airlines to form part of the national carrier, adding that, when that experiment was made with Aero Contractors Airline, in 2011, it failed because the minority shareholders refused to agree to restructure the ownership.
The minister stated that Aero was chosen because of its indebtedness to the Federal Government through AMCON, its safety records and the size of its fleet, stressing that because the Aero Contractors’ experiment failed, the ministry’s panel set up to look at the viability of a national carrier, advised that Nigeria should explore the multiple carrier option instead of the single national carrier.
On what should be done to stabilize the ailing sector, Chidoka, who is also a former Corps Marshal of FRSC, said he had appealed to Pension Commission, (PenCom), to set aside three per cent of pension fund to invest in aviation sector, adding that when this is done, it would help to grow the Nigerian airlines.
On the survival of airlines, the Aviation Minister stated that he would not subscribe to a situation where airlines are allowed to die before efforts are made to rescue them, adding that the regulator, (NCAA), should be proactive to intervene in any airline, the moment it noticed any sign of the airline going under.
“There is the need to set up Aviation Corporate Governance and Enterprise Risk Framework (ACGERF), to reduce the probability of aviation corporation failure due to moral hazard,” Chidoka hinted.
The outgoing minister also revealed that his experience at the ministry showed that there are multiple departments in the Aviation Ministry, adding that most of the departments are not relevant to the ministry and the system.
He also disclosed that the problem with the ministry is not the removal of the minister by the President, but the frequent posting and transferring of key high-ranking officers of the ministry, like the permanent secretary and the directors, noting that such bureaucratic changes truncate continuity of programmes and policy.
This, he said had created room for politicians and contractors to manipulate the system, thereby making the ministry to move away from its statutory role of supervision to that of an implementation agency.
He advised that the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency, divest the ministry of all projects that are meant for the agencies to implement.
On the issue of in- flight catering organisations seeking license to operate in Nigeria, he said he would not give approval to any foreign company seeking approval to operate in the country, adding that when Nigeria in-flight catering company; Airline Services Limited (ASL) tried to operate in Britain, it was frustrated.
He explained that the British authority asked ASL to seek the cooperation of customers first, before coming to it, while the customers asked the catering outfit to get approval from the British Airport Authority (BAA), before they would accede to its request.
The agencies under the Ministry of Aviation include: Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT).
With these agencies under his ministry, Chidoka on resumption of duty, set goals for himself on what he wanted to achieve. Part of his aims was to build a safe and secured airspace through continuous gap analysis and closure, resilient workforce and robust IT-based security infrastructure.
Another area he initiated to strengthen the sector, was to build one aviation that will make the industry customer centric, rebuild supervision and policy leadership of the ministry, make aviation a model for digital operation, introduce performance management across all agencies and reverse the trend of ageing and misaligned workforce.
Above all, when the minister assumed duties in July last year, aviation sector was contributing a paltry sum of 0.4 per cent to the national gross domestic product, (GDP).
Chidoka found this situation unacceptable and quickly initiated plans to increase aviation contribution to the GDP and wider economy by rolling out programmes on price competition, to wean aviation out of Federal budgets and to increase private sector participation in aviation industry.
He said one of the things that astonished him on assumption of duty, was that he discovered that the ministry had no master plan for the aviation sector.
This he said made him to work towards proving one so that the sector will have a road map for all policies and programmes to be implemented in the industry.
The minister decried the frequent posting and transfer of senior staff in the sector which render its planning and research function ineffective.
He condemned the pooling system of the federal civil service which he said, limits aviation ministry’s ability to build and maintain a group of technical experts to manage the affairs of the civil aviation industry, adding that it must be modified to accommodate the technical expertise required in certain areas.
He also recommended that the government should conclude the ongoing procurement of consultants for the master plan. It is unfortunate that Chidoka will not be around to supervise these laudable programmes he had put in place. But, it is hoped, the incoming government will work towards realizing the projects as proposed by him.