The President of the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Mr. Illitrus Ahmadu in this interview with Suleiman Idris spoke on the industry’s expectations and the task before the new Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Captain Musa Nuhu.
The senate has confirmed Capt. Nuhu as the Director-General of Nigerian aviation apex regulatory body, the NCAA, what was the feeling like in the industry?
For me, it is a positive one and optimism has enveloped the agency and the industry at large because he is the eye through which the sector will be look at from now onward. Also changes of this nature are expected because the system survives every Director General that comes. If you look at the civil aviation authority as a system from inception, we have evolved from the era when we used to have our teething period and we are still growing.
Could you explain the key areas the industry made significant strides under past leaderships?
A lot, we have recorded significant achievement in the area of safety and security of civil aviation. Gone are the days when we used to witness crashes in commercial aviation, we have gone about 4-5 years now without any major accident in schedule commercial operations. It goes to show the efforts that have been put in place both on the part of the regulatory authority and also on the part of the industry, the airlines operators most especially who have come to the realization that it is their investment and that they need to comply with the regulations, so that they can have a sustainable safety in the area of flight operations.
How does the new Director-General build on that?
There has been this saying that we have done a lot in the area of safety and security, but l dare say it is a continuous process and activity. We need to prioritize those areas, safety, enhance oversight on air operators, we need to invest in training and retraining of manpower, it is expected that we should house inspectors that have knowledge that equals or above that of the industry because every single equipment that operates in our airspace, we must have inspectors who are trained and rated on that equipment. So we must invest and continue to invest in the area of safety and security.
The last administration appeared to have put the challenges with the collection of 5% Ticket Sales Charges to rest?
The NCAA has to sustain activity in the area of revenue collection from the 5% ticket sales charge. It has been a major problem where operators take these charges and they don’t remit. The NCAA under Usman evolved a strategy of ‘no pay no service’ and it yielded a lot of dividends, so operators are coming up and paying while NCAA is reconciling the old debts and designing and redesigning modalities for payment, that in effect should be sustain because the NCAA gets no subvention from the federal government, it relies solely on the percentages it takes from the 5% TSC while the other percentages is distributed among other agencies. Very important, without funding, the authority cannot function.
What kind of partnerships should the industry look forward to under the new leadership that are of importance to the agency and the industry at large?
The new DG should look at areas of partnership with international organisations, aircraft manufacturers, IATA, Boeing, Airbus, Pratt and Whitney engines; we use to have these collaborations which have been most beneficial to the industry. Probably we should look at those areas to consolidate on what we have done in the past so that the industry can benefit because the industry through the corridors of these collaborations, they bring in safety workshops and we get some staff from the airlines to participate and it adds a lot of values to the industry.
The domestication of most hitherto foreign training for staff of NCAA was not well received, should the new helmsman have a rethink?
You recall at the twilight of the Jonathan administrations, there was a federal government policy that constricted foreign training. Classically most of the training that we do in NCAA are technical in nature and they can’t be found here, they are not the kind of training you get off the shelf, they are in facilities offshore, the policy restricted training to just the flight standard group in NCAA while that remains the situation till today, what we are saying as unions is that the NCAA can look into the possibilities of reviewing that decision because what I know is that a lot of personnel in the system requires training irrespective of their grade levels. The issue is that if a personnel job function requires that he or she has that external exposure, the person should have it irrespective of whether the staff is in the technical area or not.
How have the Nigerian airports fare in terms of certifications in recent years?
Airport certification is one of the current gaps that is recorded against the Nigerian civil aviation system as a whole, the problem of airports certification dates back over two decades. The thing is that most of the airports as they currently stand are not ready for certification. It is okay to say the CAA can go in and commence certification, no, you have to prepare the airport, there has to be a system, they must have the necessary manuals, the necessary personnel that are qualified to do the work, if it is an airport like FAAN in sufficient number. You have talk about issues of funding, does the airport have the necessary resources to put in place infrastructure that will get the airport ready for certification. Airport certification is capital intensive, while the authority has been able to do Abuja and Lagos, currently Port Harcourt and Kano are being prepared. Like l said it is capital intensive because you are looking at issues such as perimeter fencing, runways, the entire systems of the airport, fire cover, aviation security, though AVSEC has a separate distinct audit from the rest, in certifying the airport you must look at the whole picture, technology or system that will prevent incursion, for me, the incoming DG should consolidate on has been started.
That brings in the challenges with Inter-agency collaboration in an industry like aviation?
Inter-agency relationship is very important, NCAA is the apex regulatory authority in the country, there need to be a very fertile inter-agency relationship, when l say fertile, FAAN need to cooperate with NCAA in terms of its operations to ensure that it is complying with regulations, NAMA need to ensure it is working within the framework of the regulations and also cooperate with NCAA to ensure resolutions in the areas of safety concerns if any, because the problem over the years has been that because these are governmental agencies, nobody want to submit to the authority of the NCAA, I think as a state we should go beyond that, because we are looking at the wider picture and entity call Nigeria.
How can Captain Musa Nuhu bring his experience to bear on the sector?
The new DG last assignment was as Nigerian representative to ICAO council, I believe that availed him the opportunity to interact globally with a lot of state, international organisations, etc, he can leverage on that to bring in a lot of assistance and collaborative efforts that can improve the industry in Nigeria. One of the major challenge of the industry in Nigeria and Africa as a whole is infrastructure. He was the chairperson of the Africa Regional Group in ICAO while he was the Nigerian Representative, the continent has it regional plans, targets we set for ourselves to achieve within a particular period.