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NASS committees, stakeholders rally new strategies for aviation devt

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PHOTO: WOLE OYEBADE

•Six pending bills for passage soon
•Intl Airports’ automated facilitation ready in August

Aviation committees in the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly, and other stakeholders, have said that new strategies should not be an afterthought if the sector will wriggle out of current difficulties.

They said besides the new vista to be opened by the pending legislations, policymakers and operators should begin to deploy new thinking and approaches to align local operations with global best practices.

Specifically, they called for a review of aviation financing mechanism to align with services on offer, commensurate bailout funds for airlines, efficiency in operational and management system, competitive pay for technical staffers, and reduction in the cost of operations.

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Speaking at the conference organised by aviation correspondents in Lagos, recently, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, noted that aviation remains central to economic development and should be on the front burner.

Adeyemi said there are six aviation Acts pending at the National Assembly and awaiting passage as part of measures to revamp the industry.

The Acts include the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Act (NCAA) 2006; Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria Act 2010; Nigeria Airspace Management Agency Act 1999; Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Act, 1964; Nigerian Meteorological Act, 2003; and Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau Act, 2019.

He said these bills have already scaled second reading, and “when passed into to law, there will be new approaches to management and oversight functions”.

“We really need to scale up the industry to be one that has an enabling environment, emanating from good legislations and resources,” Adeyemi said.

His counterpart in the lower chamber, Nnolim Nnaji, added that adequate financing mechanism cannot be ruled out in aviation, though he added that the Federal Government has been most complacent in that area.

“The government didn’t do much in terms of a bailout for the airlines. The cost of a Boeing (aircraft) engine is close to $10 million and what the government provided for all the airlines (as COVID-19 palliative) is about N4 billion. So, when you compare what our airlines got with those of other countries, you will find out that they (government) didn’t do much for the industry.

“The aviation industry is a very expensive business and most people (operators) do not break even. What they succeed in doing is to just keep the business going because everything about the industry is offshore and that is a challenge,” Nnaji said.

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The lawmaker added that the National Assembly has succeeded in getting zero duties for the commercial airlines’ spare parts, though not the same for scarce foreign exchange

“For now, I don’t know how the ban on forex to BDCs will affect airlines but I heard that the black market rate has gone up. I still wonder if banks can manage but from next week, we will get to know how airlines will be affected.”

In a similar vein, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, said the times are dire for the entire industry and policy formulators must engage in policy engineering and make great financial decisions to get out of the woods.

“Without financial relief, I do not see a quick recovery. We need an aggressive policy and we need to do much more on implementation that is very aggressive. As you are aware COVID-19 has put the global economy to the test, with air transport being undoubtedly the hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Indeed, the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) recently measured the COVID-19’s economic impact on Nigeria, estimating a revenue loss in excess of $994 million in 2020. No fewer than 125,370 jobs were put at risk, with loss of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in excess of $885 million.

The FAAN MD hinted that the failed automated passenger and baggage check-in systems at Lagos and Abuja airports were being resolved, with the new handler now deploying equipment.

Yadudu explained that the 10-year CITA contract for Lagos and Abuja airports expired last year and FAAN decided to improve the process.

“The new contract and the project have already been approved by Mr, President. We have improved the process from two airports to now cover all the five international airports – Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu. At the end of the day, it is going to be better for all of us.

“We have already started taking delivery of equipment from RESA of France. FAAN went with the right procurement process and we got a better deal. I believe by the middle of next month, we shall be ready to move forward.”

Managing Director of Finchglow Group, Bankole Bernard, said the industry has not lacked good policies, but the strategic implementation to rob off positively on the entire sector.

Bernard said there is a need for proper assessment of impacts of policy implementation over the years.

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“The Act that governs NCAT was enacted in 1964, whereas those of other agencies had been reviewed.

How come the one that affects the industry’s personnel has been abandoned for decades? It shows that we pay very little attention to our workforce and that explains why we more often export that aspect of the aviation business.

“We need to go back to the drawing board and make sure that the personnel are well trained and properly remunerated. As of today, we only have 20 accredited training organisations in Nigeria, to serve a population of over 200 million people! It is not that people are not interested in aviation, but there are no enabling laws to attract investors into this critical aspect of the industry. I think we need to pay more attention to issues that affect human factor too,” he added.

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FAANIATANCAASmart Adeyemi
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