The Montgolfier brothers in 1783 gave our world what then and now stands out as its most amazing and exciting gifts when they developed the hot air balloon and conducted the first untethered flight in the sky! But only very few people could have imagined what vistas of opportunities it would open up, and/or what kinds of people would create what kinds of niches for themselves out of it. The aviation industry has come to represent a significant aspect of our lives in more evolving ways than was ever imagined simply by facilitating mobility.
The big deal about the aviation industry lies in its provision of mobility as typified in its pillars of transport (air, inland and maritime) as a major leverage for global socio-economic fabric. They underpin social connections and facilitate access to goods and services, including trade, jobs, health care and education. In today’s world, the focus for the aviation industry is fast evolving and exerts a far greater demand on human and systemic abilities in terms of dynamism, efficiency, speed, interconnectivity and accessibility. Therefore, the main issue for the sector in Nigeria is to keep up with the trends of development and to ensure their sustainability.
The aviation industry in Nigeria has come a long way, having witnessed about 75years of operational existence characterized, over the years, by the industry’s own peculiar cycles of booms and wanes resulting majorly from its management and leadership profiles and styles. Nonetheless, the industry in Nigeria has, despite the serial cases of mismanagement, corruption, and general inefficiencies, remained resilient and evolving. Recent strides noted in the industry attests to the fact that greater potentials abound in the Nigerian aviation industry. Thanks to the transformational initiatives of Senator Hadi Sirika, the Aviation Minister of the contemporary Buhari government. With his very one of a kind honest, nationalist, intelligent and fiercely committed approach to the responsibilities of his office as the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Distinguished Senator Hadi Sirika has, indeed, distinguished himself in the holistic manner he has been driving innovative advancements in the Nigerian Aviation sector.
Evidently, his professional experiences and expertise have guided the careful and calculated ways through which he has so far attempted to coordinate measures for addressing age-long inefficiencies that have buffeted the sector. A keen observation of what the senator has accomplished since he assumed his duties in the Aviation Ministry, particularly the implementation of innovations, will lead one to the conclusion that the minister is working from his experiences; working to change the old order that appeared to frustrate him during his days of active flight operations. Good, humane thoughts, if you ask me – to let others not suffer now that destiny has placed him at a vantage position to take steps to redress the anomalies from which he had suffered at appoint in his career.
Senator Sirika’s most outstanding record is his realisation that government operates in a continuum, and that, for whatever reason, abandoning projects initiated by others before would not only be wasteful and counter-productive but will greatly detract from his mission and vision of reviving the stagnating aviation sector and setting it on a path of global competitiveness, and ensuring above the board service delivery. This personal philosophy of the minister has been demonstrated in several scenarios including the determined efforts to complete about 40 projects variously stalled from previous authorities under the purview of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology. The minister and his equally dedicated team amazingly exceeded the 30% milestone targeted for the Q3 of 2020 in effectively bringing these stalled projects to fruition even as the 2021 outlook for the activities remains quite upbeat. As a way to facilitate investment processes in the development of the aviation industry in the country, the minister saw the need to sustain the concession of certain aviation facilities. In this regard, the Aviation Ministry continues to superintend over the concession of frontal aviation facilities such as the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, the Port Harcourt International Airport, Aminu Kano and the Enugu International Airports where considerable milestones have been achieved in the concessional arrangements.
Essentially, in line with the set roadmap, barring no interference of force majeure, the trajectory also looks bright for attaining the 2021 Q4 deadline set for the finalization of the concessional programmes. When it comes to setting and meeting deadlines, the Minister of Aviation remains outstanding. We cannot forget in a hurry, the rehabilitation works undertaken at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at Abuja some two years ago. Other key deliverables for which notable milestones have been recorded consistent with the roadmap are the establishment of a national carrier, development of a scheme for the continuous maintenance and optimal use of Airport facilities, a proactive strategy for the development of a functional PPP arrangement for further integration of the private sector into the aviation industry.
The ongoing transformation is a big step in terms of the changes that we witness in the sector over the last three to four years, but the phenomenon in all of that is the business acumen of the leadership. It would be recalled that Mr President made a pledge to lift about a million Nigerians out of poverty by 2029. This pledge automatically translates into a directive for the MDAs and their drivers. In this regard, the Minister of Aviation takes this directly seriously and is taking steps to support the aspiration of Mr President by exploiting the diverse and multi-layered opportunities in Aviation to generate the desired level of economic growth, job creation and facilitating international trade and tourism as well as other value-chains. For this to materialize, we need innovation not just by memos but by such pragmatic and dynamic leadership at work in the Aviation Ministry.
Wada writes from Abuja.