No doubt, the aviation industry in Nigeria needs urgent reforms. Most of the laws operated by Nigerian aviation agencies are obsolete and do not meet the challenges of a fast-paced, dynamic aviation industry. WOLE SHADARE, who was at the public hearing, writes that passage of the six bills will engender best practices for the entire system
The public hearing last week in Abuja may have come and gone. The three-day event, which sought inputs from stakeholders on aviation bills before the Senate Committee on Aviation, lived up to its billing.
Tempers as predicted were high but that did not in any take away the attempt to fashion for the country Acts that could improve the sector if the Bills go through the whole gamut of legislation.
Prior to this, the executive arm of government had forwarded four aviation bills that were considered for First Reading at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the “Senate”) on November 21, 2019.
Explaining the bills
The bills are the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Act (Repeal and Reenactment) Bill 2019, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Act (Amendment) Bill 2019, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (Establishment, etc.) Bill 2019 and the Civil Aviation Bill 2019.
Except the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that has an existing Act that is more recent but which may appear ‘out dated’ in view of the dynamism of global aviation sector, others particularly that of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) are over two or three decades. They are so obsolete that not a few believe it is one of the things that have kept the authority where it is today, on cliffhanger.
The Act particularly for FAAN limits and incapacitates the airport authority from carrying out their responsibilities in the most efficient manner, ultimately not even guaranteeing the safety of operations not to talk of the security of the operations.
The Act establishing NAMA took effect on May 26, 1999 and has remained in existence for 21 years without any changes to it even though many significant changes have occurred in the operational requirements of the agency.
These changes are dictated by International requirements of ICAO and the amendments proposed in the bill are aimed to align the Agency to meet these new operational requirements in the industry.
For lack of space, salient provisions of the respect bills are summarized. For FAAN, the Bill seeks to repeal the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Act1 and to enact the Federal Airports Administration of Nigeria Act 2019, to provide for the effective management of airports in Nigeria. Under the Bill, the authority retains its responsibility of providing all the functions it is currently doing expeditious and economic operation of airports and air transport in Nigeria.
In addition, the bill provides that a fund must be maintained by FAAN, where monies appropriated to FAAN by the National Assembly, Federal Government and in respect of services provided or rendered by it will be deposited. Any person who collects and fails to remit monies into the fund managed by FAAN commits an offence and will be liable on conviction, to imprisonment for a term of two years or to a fine of N2,000,000.00 (Two Million Naira).
Civil Aviation Bill
This Bill seeks to repeal the Civil Aviation Act, 2006 and to enact the Civil Aviation Act, 2019 (the ‘Act) for the regulation of civil aviation in Nigeria and other purposes connected therewith. The aim is to provide an effective legal and institutional framework for the regulation of civil aviation in Nigeria to conform with the standards and recommended practices set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), establish rules of operation and divisions of responsibility within the Nigerian civil aviation system in order to promote aviation safety; ensure that Nigeria’s obligations under international aviation agreements is implemented; and consolidate the laws relating to civil aviation in Nigeria.
The bill when passed will be applicable to all persons holding licenses that have been issued or validated by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (the ‘Authority’); including every person, aircraft, air operator, aerodrome, aeronautical product, air service, and aviation related service, in Nigeria; every Nigerian registered aircraft whether within or outside Nigeria; and every foreign registered aircraft operating in Nigeria, into and out of Nigeria.
The bill provides that in time of war, whether actual or imminent, the Minister may cancel or suspend any licenses, permits, certificates or other authorizations issued under the Act in the interest of Justice.
An airline operator is not permitted to operate air transport service to, from and within Nigeria unless he has a security programme approved by the Authority, subsequently, every breach of the provisions of the approved airline security programme will attract a fine of not less than N200,000.00
The NAMA Bill
Apart from ensuring that overlapping provisions and conflicting responsibilities with other existing aviation legislations are removed, the amendments proposed in the NAMA Bill will give legal backing to the changes that have taken place in the industry so that the Agency is not lagging behind in meeting its operational requirements.
To this extent the bill will strengthen and reposition the Agency to effectively discharge its statutory mandate and to implement recent ICAO requirements notably; Global Air Navigation Plan, Performance Based Navigation (PBN), ICAO Flight Plan adopted in 2012, Safety Management System (SMS) (Annex 19 adopted 2016), Aviation Safety Block Upgrade (ASBU) which will ensure seamless and interoperability of systems and transition from Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) to Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) and Air Traffic
Stakeholders believe that the passage of the NAMA Bill would provide a robust legal frame work which will enable the Agency to implement new safety requirements and be well positioned to discharge of its statutory responsibilities as a leading Air Navigation Service Provider in the sub region.
The bill will no doubt bring about much needed operational improvement, increased efficiency, and flexibility and save time and cost to air space users and this will go a long way to enhance safety and economic growth of the industry.
The AIB Bill
The proposed Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau Bill, 2020, an Act to provide for an effective legal and institutional framework for the regulation and administration of safety of transportation occurrences in Nigeria is expected to put Nigeria amongst the world’s greatest in line with global trend and best industry practices.
This Act is proposed to put Nigeria amongst the world’s greatest in line with global trend and best industry practices.
It is widely accepted that multimodality is the future of Transport Accident Investigation, and the transition has always been made from the extant Air Accident Investigation Agency. In Nigeria, it is the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB-N).
It has therefore become expedient that the Provision of Section 29 of the Civil Aviation Act (CAA) be reviewed to establish the Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NISB) in a separate Act to bring up on speed with contemporary global best practice in the industry, to create a multi modal Bureau for investigation of air, rail way and maritime accidents.
In Nigeria, the main modes of transportation are road and air. However, recent developments have shown the development of (and return to) railways, and an increase in the use of our inland waterways, as alternate methods of transportation.
Former Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. Richard Aisubeogun who was at the public hearing told New Telegraph said the Acts were inevitable and good that that they are being revisited.
He disclosed that the existing Acts establishing the agencies, not just FAAN alone are between three and three and half decades, making them obsolete and one dragging the aviation sector backward.
His words: “If you take a careful look at the Act, especially that of FAAN, it has become obsolete and when it becomes obsolete, it limits and incapacitate the airport authority from carrying out their responsibilities in the most efficient manner, ultimately not even guaranteeing the safety of operations not to talk of the security of the operations.
“So, what we have done is to support the Federal Ministry o Aviation, the Federal Government and by extension, FAAN to push for the re-enactment of the new bills. There is the need for the funding of airport infrastructure as we speak today. You have to take airport infrastructure to the peak if you want to encourage the flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).”
“We need to tackle moribund aviation infrastructure. It will give you leverage even when you want to commercialise or privatise or concession the airports in whatever terms you want to use. It will give you leverage for strong negotiation power because you have invested in the infrastructure and the equipment of the entire aviation sector industry.
“Unfortunately, government is limited by funds and there are so many things competing with the available resources. Are equipment at the airports are aging. The airport authority needs every kobo to be re-injected back into the infrastructural upgrade of the airports”, he added.
Nigeria has lagged behind because of many parts of the agencies’ laws that are no longer in tandem with realities. It is hoped that passage of the bills will bring the succor needed by Nigerians and making air transport safest.