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COVID-19, Rabiu Yadudu and FAAN two years on

By Olu Ayela
07 June 2021   |   3:35 am
In this phenomenal period in the history of Nigeria kicked off by daunting economic challenges and a pandemic that took the nation by storm, reducing forecasts to mere conjectures...

Managing Director of FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu

In this phenomenal period in the history of Nigeria kicked off by daunting economic challenges and a pandemic that took the nation by storm, reducing forecasts to mere conjectures, rendering hitherto formidable organisations and institutions as shadows of what they used to be in the pre-pandemic era, there are a few men and agencies in Nigeria that can stand out to be counted for recognition and honour. Captain Rabiu Yadudu. Is one such person in, among many other areas, his management of Nigeria’s number one gateway against the pandemic. The low level of infection from the pandemic in Nigeria may be attributed to divine intervention in a country where clearly a lot of processes, systems and persons do not work as expected, but divinity is not able to shape the affairs of nations without the instrumentality of humanity. Yadudu put systems, processes, and human resources to an extremely good use to keep the airport in prime working condition and helped to contain what would have been the biggest casualty rate of the pandemic worldwide.

During the pandemic, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) worked to stave off a calamity of immense proportion. Yadudu, as helmsman of the agency, coordinated and inspired a team that refused to be overwhelmed by the anxieties coming from outside the country but also the presence of real people struck by the pandemic and coming in their droves through the nation’s airport. Even cargoes were infected and all were managed with such uncanny ability.

To be sure, voices were raised against him because of the close working relationship he has with the supervising Minister of Aviation. Instead of seeing this cordiality as an advantage that was borne out of mutual understanding and cooperation, it was used as a trump card against him. This is the bane of many Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Nigeria and has contributed to the failure of many of the public sector organisations in meeting their mandates. Imagine the colossal loss it would be if petty rivalries and bickering of naysayers had prevailed against the better judgment of his appointers.

There is certainly more to organising FAAN than the decades spent in the seat as a director of an organisation. The skills deployed by Captain Yadudu at FAAN make for a persuasive argument to ask that his two years in office should serve as a background for further opportunity to execute a blueprint for FAAN. Having worked in all departments that makes for a successful airport system that meet internationally acceptable standard in the twenty first century, Yadudus beacon from his appointment in May 2019 was the Authority’s mission statement. In keeping faith with the obligation of FAAN “to develop and profitably manage customer-centric airport facilities for safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world-class standards of quality.”

The innumerable distractions that are some of the pitfalls of the work including incoherent air transport policy, bad management, decaying facilities, loose security, closure of airports, intermittent air crashes have not deterred him from ensuring that there must be strict compliance with safety which is the bedrock of the aviation industry. Success of the agency depends on unrepentant enthusiasm for the strict application of regulations for the sustenance of the aviation industry, combining efficiency and effectiveness in operations without compromising the comfort of the passengers around whom everything revolves.

Yadudu’s experience in the aviation industry has served him creditably. This includes his training as a pilot which had given him the required credentials to captain a B747, Citation Sovereign and the Learjet 45XR with over 7000hrs of flying time under his belt, alongside being an experienced Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Avionics). He is confident in the air as he is on the ground. He is the proverbial round peg roundly fitting into the round hole of aviation matters, with strength in insistence on professionalism.

To boost morale of the workforce and build on existing facilities, FAAN pitched on strategic areas in human capacity development, infrastructure upgrade and maintenance and improvement in processes & procedures. The areas so identified were designed to bring about a holistic revamp of the airport authority. Before becoming Managing Director, Captain Yadudu understood the need to propel the Authority to work with precision. This would require extensive preparation to simplify complex procedures through identification of bottle necks that had impeded effective service delivery. The outcomes were tremendous reforms in safety, security, which have boosted the confidence, capability, and competence of the 10,000 strong workforce.

Reliance on knowledge is imperative as the driving strength for meaningful and impactful changes in society. This propelled FAAN to upgrade its Training School at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos to meet internationally acceptable standard. Given that the request for the designation of FAAN AVSEC was made in 2017, it was not until 2018 under the administration of Captain Yadudu that evaluation by ICAO was conducted in 2018.

Following the upgrade was a certification that has made the school one of the ICAO accredited Aviation Security Training Centre. It was inaugurated by the international aviation body in 2018 bringing another feather to the somewhat overcrowded cap of Captain Yadudu. In recognition of its contribution to aviation sector for the sub-region, ICAO has designated it to cater for aviation institutions in West and Central Africa.

The positive evolvement of FAAN under Yadudu did not go unnoticed by the British Government which signed a Memorandum of Understanding on aviation security with the authority for the development of manpower, a step towards attaining the ICAO Trainer status. The school has added another chapter to the aviation academic narrative of serving and future aviation enthusiasts, scholars and aficionados become a hosting facility for ACI and ICAO training programs.

Beyond the AVSEC training school, the deepening and strengthening of knowledge extended to issues of continuous training and capacity building for staff of the Authority in the most crucial areas especially fire and rescue, operations, safety and engineering departments, and airport security in these days of high prevalence of terrorism and drug trafficking. FAAN’s operations became seamless, and without hassles as could be found in more developed countries of the world. And Yadudu encouraged the adoption of the train-the-trainer pattern through which the Authority will train a class of fifty who would in turn step down the training for relevant staff and knowledge is replicated and cascaded through the ranks. This paves way for a sustainable structure that will keep producing new crops of knowledgeable aviation staff.

As the Chief cheer leader at FAAN Captain Yadudu knows that it is also one of his cardinal duties to make the passengers want to use the facilities.

Their safety, comfort and security were ramped up through the reactivation of the cooling system which had made the arrival hall of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport an extremely uncomfortable arrival point for passengers who would suddenly feel the sharp contrast in temperature as they step out of the controlled climate of the cool interior of an arriving aircraft. There were other significant changes at the airport including but not limited to the airfield lighting at the Lagos aerodrome which has received an upgrade.

Creating a hub status for the Lagos airport is a priority worth pursuing. The vision is for the new terminal to process 12 million passengers yearly while the 48,000 square meter facility beside the old terminal will process between 20 and 30 million passengers yearly. This dream is nearing fruition as the intermodal pattern required to serve the airport is being worked out with other agencies even including the Lagos state government.

There are other significant achievements that are difficult to be overlooked by any regular user of the Lagos airports. One of them is the menacing presence of a large colony of birds that have found the airport as habitable location. That is no mean feat because bird strike was almost synonymous with the Lagos airports and it was of serious concern to airline operators. Deploying a scientific management approach, the birds were eventually dislodged and the key flight path for aircraft has become a very safe runway.

The authority necessarily plans for the latest in technology, without which the airport will not only stress passengers, but lose operations time and most importantly money and profitability. The anticipated technology to be deployed are the critical ones especially those needed for the check-in counters, and fiber optic technology to speed up communication. Captain Yadudu’s ambition for FAAN is large size thus positioning the Authority for greater achievements ahead.

Ayela, a veteran journalist, is based in Lagos.