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‘Nigeria Law School faculties don’t have courses in aviation’

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Ajibola Dalley

Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Section on Business Law is arguably the most vibrant section in NBA. Apart from its annual conference, which is usually animated and attracts speakers from all around the world, it has various committees that are also working to ensure the growth and development of different sections of business law in the country. Chairman of its Aviation Committee, Ajibola Dalley, in this interview with JOSEPH ONYEKWERE, says faculties of law of Nigerian universities as well as the Law School do not offer courses in aviation law. He also explains why it is holding its conference today and what it intends to achieve.

What is your view about the training of lawyers in the area of aviation law?
Nigerian universities do not offer a course in aviation law. The law school certainly doesn’t and there is currently no published book on aviation law and practice in Nigeria. Therefore, the only opportunity available to lawyers is engagement in one of the few firms that specialise in aviation law. So in answer to your question there is insufficient opportunity for lawyers, in the field of aviation law. Indeed as earlier stated part of the key objectives of the conference and our committee is the training of lawyers, particularly the young lawyers. Before the end of our tenure we plan to conduct a series of workshops and seminars in different parts of the country.

What do you think about regulation of the aviation sector and what challenges hampers its operations?
In the years 2005 and 2006 there were far too many incidents of domestic airline crashes. The Federal Government kicked into action and as a result, a number of significant milestones were achieved. The 2006 civil aviation act was passed into law, government produced a formidable policy document focused on safety, the management of the regulatory authorities particularly the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority was overhauled and manned by seasoned aviation experts. The results were commendable, namely; 93 percent safety record between 2006 and 2017, achieving category 1 status and most scheduled airlines are IOSA certified. Whilst a number of new domestic airlines have since entered the market just as many, if not more, have been forced to exit due to inability to service overwhelming debts to the banks. Nigeria’s domestic airlines are constantly plague by a myriad of regulatory challenges. The issue of the five percent ticket sales charge, the high cost and insufficient supply of Jet A1 fuel, multiple government charges, the decay in infrastructure and the most recent exchange rate debacle are some of the difficulties being experienced by the airlines. There is a real need for Government to produce a firm policy for the benefit of aviation industry.

What is the objective of the Nigeria Bar Association’s Section on Business Law Aviation Committee conference?
At the end of the conference it is intended that a greater number of legal practitioners, particularly the young lawyers, are better informed on the current trends in aviation law and practice. Furthermore by engaging with industry leaders and experts we hope to have a greater understanding of their expectations and in so doing expand upon the nature of legal services to be provided.

What is the theme of the conference and what other related issues are you going to discuss?
The theme of the conference is “Unlocking the Potentials of Aviation Law and Practice in Nigeria”. It ties in neatly with the objectives explained earlier. During the first session, the highly respected Captain Edward Boyo (The Managing Director of Landover Company Limited) will set the tone by providing an insight into the topic “An Overview of Nigeria’s Aviation Sector”.

Thereafter he will join a distinguished panel of aviation specialists to discuss the topic. The panelists will review the state of the nation’s aviation sector, identify reasons for the current state and possible areas of improvement. Some of the burning issues to be discussed include: Lack of infrastructural development; Barriers to entry and administrative bottlenecks; Lack of adequate maintenance and overhaul facilities for aircrafts; The drastic decline in the value of the Naira and its impact on the airlines; Inadequate supply and the high prices of aviation fuel Multiple taxation, tickets sales charge (TSC) – Flat rate or five percent and safety of aircrafts. In the second session, the topic “The Scope of Legal Practice in Nigeria’s Aviation Sector – Creating Opportunities for Lawyers” would be discussed. The idea is to enlighten legal practitioners on the expectation of industry leaders, possible growth areas for lawyers in the sector and ways in which lawyers can contribute towards building the sector. In the third session, an excellent panel of legal practitioners, including senior advocates of Nigeria, who specialised in the field of aviation law, will review recent decisions on the scope of the Federal High Court’s Jurisdiction in respect of aviation matters. Lastly, during the fourth and final session, there would be presentations on the liability provisions of the Montreal Convention (application law) for delay, damage to baggage and cargo, injury and death.

Who are you expecting at the conference as participants?
Roughly 70 percent of the participants are lawyers. The rest are made up of airline owners and operators, owners of travel agencies, regulators and legislators.

What informed your choice of the resource persons?
The speakers and panelists were handpicked as a result of a survey conducted amongst key members of the aviation industry. In most cases, the resource persons were found to have vast experience and knowledge of the sector. In particular, they were mostly held in high esteem.



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