Nigeria Airways’ workers to get 50 per cent pensions balance, Minister Sirika assures
The false start in setting up a new national carrier notwithstanding, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has reeled out achievements of the aviation industry, among them new infrastructure, pension arrears and zero accident. WOLE OYEBADE was there. Excerpts:
As an aviator, how would you assess the performance of the aviation industry lately?
As you know, aviation is a globally-regulated industry; any lapse in one state is clearly monitored and exposed by others.
In Nigeria, under the present administration, headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, much achievement has been recorded in the sector and these are verifiable. To succinctly put, aviation achievements under President Buhari is unprecedented. They are not hidden.
One of the major achievements of this administration is the sustenance of safety, which has been phenomenal.
It is on record that since this administration came onboard, there has not been an accident to commercial airlines, which has further boosted and restored confidence of the flying public.
However, this achievement would not have been attained without the strong regulatory function of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Under this present administration, the country’s air travel has enjoyed huge safety record.
The Ministry has recorded significant achievements in virtually all aspects of the sector in the past three years. They are: growing and sustaining the domestic aviation industry; re-introduction of zero import duties on aircraft, engine and introduction of same for spare parts.
The intervention to rescue Arik Air and Aero Contractors from total collapse is another milestone, which would have led to the demise of the two airlines and cause huge loss of jobs by professionals in the sector. The two airlines are today still in operation, under receivership.
Just last December, this government, through the approval of President Buhari, paid 50 per cent of severance and retirement benefits to 5,966 staff of the former national carrier, Nigeria Airways.
The beneficiaries even held a ‘thank you’ rally to appreciate President Buhari because he walks the talk.
You will recall that the airline was liquidated in 2003 and since its liquidation, several ministers and governments in this country refused to pay them their severance packages, which I think was bad for the system.
You don’t treat your citizens badly, and expect the younger ones to put in their best for the system. But President Buhari ensured that they were paid part of their benefits. I can, however, assure you that the remaining balance would be paid as promised.
Certainly, one cannot measure growth in aviation without the passenger traffic and financial strength of the operators. What has been the performance in these areas?
What this administration has ensured is a safer and competitive aviation industry resulting in the growth of the sector.
The sector recorded an average growth of 33 per cent on domestic operations and 13.5 per cent on international operations between January 2017 and June 2018. This is also unprecedented in this country.
On the side of the operators, we provided the enabling environment for domestic airlines in the country to attain certification in the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA).
Currently, five Nigerian domestic airlines have certification, while we also designated some of them for international operations.
There are concerns over the state of navigation aids across the airports. What has changed?
A lot has changed. For instance, we have completed the Kano Tower Automated Air Traffic Management and Meteorological Systems, installed the Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) Category II (CAT II), Doppler VORs (DVORs), Distance Measuring Equipment (DMEs) at four airports – Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, and Kaduna. They are all completed, while that of Minna, Jos, Yola, Maiduguri, Benin and Akure are still on-going and nearing completion.
You will recall that almost two years ago, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA); Installed CAT III ILS in Lagos and Abuja, which have helped in great deal to improve operations during inclement weather conditions.
Also, we have installed the Very High Frequency (VHF) radios for aerodrome and approach air-to-ground communication in 18 airports nationwide.
The airports are Maiduguri, Enugu, Jos, Calabar, Yola, Ilorin, Sokoto, Lagos, Kano, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Zaria, Katsina, Owerri, Yola, Calabar and Kaduna.
Besides, we have installed the high power Very High Frequency (VHF) stand-alone radios in Lagos and Kano Area Control Centres (ACC), as backup for air-to-ground upper airways voice communication and we also embarked on the deployment of Controller-Pilot-Data Link Communication (CPDLC) in Lagos and Kano to enhance communication in the oceanic region and the remote areas of the north.
The commencement of Aeronautical Information Management Automation Project, which comprises a network of 26 VSAT facilities at all Nigerian airports as well as Search and Rescue (S&R), with coordination domiciled in Lagos.
This will enable Nigeria to comply with the mandatory transition from Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) to Aeronautical Information Management (AIM).
We also developed and published Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) Procedures for 18 airports across the country and also introduced Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs), and Standard Arrival Routes (STARs) at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt as an improvement on the procedures.
Are the airports better off?
They are, and as you know, President Buhari has inaugurated the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and passenger facilitation has since commenced at these airports.
This administration met the projects on ground, but Mr. President ensured that they were not abandoned. At present, Kano and Enugu airports are at advanced stages of completion.
We reconstructed Abuja runway and undertook isolated repair of the taxiway and apron, including complete remarking of the entire pavement and associated airfield lighting system. We streamlined various security screening points at the international airports in line with Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business.
This government also installed solar airfield lighting at 10 airports; Akure, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Yola, Kaduna, Minna, Enugu, Maiduguri, Jos and Ibadan.
We also completed a 1,300-capacity multi-storey car park at the international terminal in Lagos through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) and the construction of Wing D Terminal at Abuja Airport.
The certification of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA) Ikeja, Lagos in April, 2017, and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in November, 2017, was a milestone and the first ever Airport certification in Nigeria for that matter.
Let it be known that the certification of the two airports by NCAA is symbolic for Nigeria. Because no African country has two of its international airports certified.
Also, the certification of Kano and Port Harcourt Airports have reached advanced stages, and would be achieved this year.
Also, this administration promulgated the new Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation, which took effect in July, 2016.
Nigeria achieved an effective implementation level of 67.36 per cent during the recent International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme carried out in March, 2016, which is above global average of 63.54 per cent. Nigeria also recorded 96.45 per cent in ICAO Universal Security Audit.
In the areas of State Safety Programmes, Nigeria has attained Level 3 out of 4 levels, thereby moving Nigeria from red to green on the ICAO dashboard.
In line with ICAO and WMO standards, in July 2017, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency acquired ISO 9001 2015 certificate, which qualifies it to offer aeronautical meteorological services.
The agency became the first in Africa to be so certified in that category.
You will recall that the airline was liquidated in 2003. Several ministers and governments in this country refused to pay them their severance packages, which I think was bad for the system. But President Buhari ensured that they were paid part of their benefits. I can, however, assure you that the remaining balance would be paid as promised.