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Cautious optimism as NASS moves aviation to concurrent list

By Wole Oyebade
11 March 2022   |   3:45 am
Ongoing constitution amendment to move aviation from exclusive to concurrent legislative list has been received with cautious optimism in the air transport sector.

Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN<br />

Ongoing constitution amendment to move aviation from exclusive to concurrent legislative list has been received with cautious optimism in the air transport sector.

Aviation stakeholders said the realignment would broaden investment opportunities in the sector, but doubt the viability of state-owned airports to earn sub-nationals aviation gains.

The National Assembly had in the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution listed a bill, among 67 others, to empower state governments to run airports.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had said the National Assembly got it wrong by attempting to move aviation from exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list.

Sirika said if the amendment is passed, it will break the monopoly of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), other service providers and regulators.

He said: “Aviation on concurrent list? Interesting. I can’t relate or figure out a concurrent airspace. We would be the first on planet earth, I think. Aviation is a Sovereignty matter as well as a national security concern.”

Other stakeholders, however, disagreed with the minister. Chief Executive Officer of Belujane konzult, Chris Aligbe, said the legislative review has not done anything new except to sanction practices in the industry.

Aligbe said state governments are already operating airports as well as airlines. “Akwa Ibom State has an airline and also an airport. They are even planning a maintenance facility. So, the legislative realignment is only confirming the rights of the state governments.”

He said the move will further allow more investment inflow into aviation at the state level. Aligbe, a former General Manager of the defunct Nigeria Airways, added that the concurrency of aviation would not accord powers of sovereign State to sub-nationals.

“It does not mean that states can now be part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) or sign bilateral agreements; which are exclusive to sovereign countries. Certainly, there will also not be two regulatory bodies but only the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). I expect the provisions to list the areas of concurrency.

“Several states and counties own and operate airports in the United States, but all of them are still subject to the regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority. That is how such operates globally,” Aligbe said.

Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), reckoned that there is nothing wrong with shifting of aviation from the exclusive to concurrent list.

Ojikutu said following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, ICAO brought the various standards and practices that were exclusive for international operations to apply on domestic airlines’ operations.

“Secondly, before and over 20 years ago, we’ve had states and private ownership of airports. These include: Owerri that was transferred to the federal government because of the lack of experience in airport management. We have Warri and Eket (private); we have state-owned airports in Jigawa, Bauchi, Taraba, Asaba, Uyo, Umunri, and so on, before now. Others are in the pipeline, like Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, and Ebonyi.

“If there had been no conflict between these states or private airports and the federal government-owned airports, then there should be no problem. Air traffic controls at the state airports’ towers are mainly under the management of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the security of the airports under the management of FAAN. These are critical services that states have no earnings, for the traffic to sustain the airport operations and its skilled manpower.

“However, there are economic implications for states that need to pay attention to critical social needs for the benefits of the majority of their citizens than the uneconomical number of air travellers available. What is the economic sense in having three or four airports in four states within less than 100 km to each other, and the total passenger traffic of less than two million? It does not make economic sense. But time will tell,” Ojikutu said.