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On the recruitment of Nigerian pilots



WHEN the Federal Government directed all airlines operating both general and commercial services in the country to recruit Nigerian pilots the other day, it was a heart-warming acknowledgement of the worrisome phenomenon of increasing number of unemployed indigenous Nigerian pilots. The directive not only envisages a reduction in the rank of unemployed local pilots but that it would also create an opportunity for Nigerians to help in building their own country.

   This is undoubtedly in consonance with the nation’s local content policy. So, even without the government reiterating the need for the airlines to employ local pilots, they are under an obligation by virtue of this policy to do that. In fact, it is sad that despite the existence of this policy in the country, the aviation sector has been unjustifiably fixated on employing foreign pilots, a trend that over the years, has continued to stoke the bourgeoning unemployment of Nigerian pilots.  

    Indeed, there have been  disturbing  reports that the rank of  Nigerian pilots who are sufficiently trained and  competent is growing. But there have not been employment opportunities for them. This is despite the fact that they are as qualified, and in some cases, better so than their foreign counterparts that the airlines operating in Nigeria choose to employ.  Whether  it is local or overseas, the training of pilots is usually expensive.

    Admittedly, airlines are not charity organisations; they are in business to cater for their clients’ needs with the best personnel they can get anywhere in the world.  However, the fact of the unimpeachable eligibility of Nigerian pilots and the demands of patriotism  definitely obviate any objection to the employment of local pilots by the airlines. The airlines’ operators should be proud of Nigerian personnel and should encourage local aviation workers especially when appeals are not being made to merely fatuous nationalistic claims but also to excellence.  It must be stressed  that the airlines need to give to contribute positively to the environment in which they operate, especially when we take cognisance of the inescapable fact that the government from time to time comes to their aid in their moments of dire financial straits with funds from Nigerian taxpayers.  

     It is, indeed, good that the government has shown a serious commitment to enforcing the directive on employment of indigenous pilots.  In this regard, the government’s deadline, through the Minister of Aviation, Osita Benjamin Chidoka, of July 1, 2015  to fully implement the directive  or risk the forfeiture  of their operational licences is a commendable show of seriousness.  So is the order to the airlines  to train their personnel on a yearly basis. However, there is the need for the government to monitor implementation to make this policy work. For it is a known fact that successive governments  in Nigeria are not bereft of good policies. What is in short supply most of the time is the will to implement them. In this regard, it would arguably redound to the growth of the nation’s aviation industry when the government ensures  the implementation of this directive. 

    It is, however, imperative for the  government to create a conducive environment for the  already existing airlines to  bloom and expand, and for new ones to emerge.   

   For the government’s directive to be fruitful, there should be a synergy  between it and the operators. Since the operators would be the employers of the products of the  nation’s local aviation training schools, their input should also be sought in their training. How up-to-date are  the  curricula of the local aviation training schools, for instance? Technology is changing by the day. And for Nigerian pilots who are trained locally to be employable in the aviation sector with modern aircraft and other technologies, they need to be exposed to equally modern equipment in the course of training. This, therefore, calls for a better funding of the nation’s aviation schools. A totally rewarding policy of having Nigerian pilots employed, therefore, must be comprehensive, with the beginning being on  appropriately comprehensive training to make them competitive in the market. 

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