In Nigeria, the needed executive capacity to implement aviation roadmap programmes is lacking on an international scale. WOLE SHADARE highlights the impediments to this policy adopted by successive governments
Sing songs? The ‘mantra,’ aviation roadmap, seems to have been the sing-song for any new administration saddled with the responsibility of leaving the sector when they met it.
The airports’ infrastructural report of Nigeria, unlike South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Rwanda and Kenya, is nothing to write home about as many of the roadmaps have failed to address the infrastructural needs of the airports.
Specifically, the poor standards of airports hinders effective international trade in any country.
Experts, at a well attended, star studded, two-day cargo and export expo and exhibition held at the Marriott Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, and put together by publisher,
African Travel Quarterly (ATQ) Magazine and organiser, Akwaaba African Travel Market, the first travel market in West Africa, Amb. Ikechi Uko, expressed disappointment that several of the roadmaps put together by many aviation ministers in the past to address the myriads of problems in the industry were yet to yield the desired results.
Speakers like a former Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun, Aviation Security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), CEO Belujane Consult, Chris Aligbe, Principal Managing Partner, Avaero Capital Partners, Sindy Foster, Aviation Consultant,
Dr. Daniel Young, all highlighted what needed to be done to ensure that the country was more prosperous in the aviation sector, with calls to policymakers to remove bottlenecks that have impeded growth over the years.
X-raying past efforts
Three ministers stand out for pursuing vigourously the aviation sector road map that many felt would change the face of aviation in all ramifications. The former ministers were Stella Oduah, Osita Chidoka and the current Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
While Oduah channeled all her energies into airport remodeling, building of cargo airports that were built with several millions of dollars but are yet to function or at best abandoned,
Chidoka’s short stint in aviation left him with no time to ensure that service provision at many of the major airports were top notch and some that could compete with other airports anywhere in the world.
He mooted the idea of free WiFi at Abuja and Lagos airports and this he pursued vigorously when he commissioned the Glo-wifi project for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, where he also launched the enhanced security features for ground transportation in Nigeria airports.
Owing to his short stint in the sector as minister, he made many recommendations, which, to him, would serve as blueprint for the incoming administration. The former minister also recommended the full implementation of the report of the Paul Dike Committee for implementation by the in-coming administration.
The Paul Dike committee report was comprehensive and one that tackled how to solve the myriads of problems drawing the nation’s aviation backward. It is doubtful if 50 per cent of the committee’s recommendations were ever implemented, a situation that has stunted the country’s aviation growth.
Chidoka particularly made proposals relating to the national carrier debate, Aviation Master Plan, the aerotropolis project, performance management and customer service as well as corporate governance of the industry.
Enter Oduah, the former minister serenaded her audiences with the plans to make aviation in Nigeria rank next to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
She embarked on a massive airport remodelling project that gulped over $600 million, which many described as a huge waste of resources going by the quality of jobs and procurements done by her administration.
She declared that her focus was to reposition the aviation industry as a major contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The projection, according to the then minister, was that from the fiscal year 2012, the aviation ministry should be able to contribute about 30 per cent of all its internally generated revenue to the Federation Account, stressing that revenue enhancement was at the heart of the reform and transformation of the sector.
The minister restated her resolve to turn Nigeria’s aviation sector into a regional and continental hub, saying facilities and infrastructure at the various airports were being renovated under the special Airport Renovation/ Remodelling Projects (ARP) 2011.
She decried the obsolete facilities at the airports and vowed to give Nigerians facilities and services comparable to what they get from other developed parts of the world.
Shortly before she was sacked by former President Goodluck Jonathan and since she left, the infrastructure deficit at the major airports in the country is a far cry from the enormous revenue generated by these aerodromes, except for some infrastructure provision, which are few and far between.
One of the biggest problems bedeviling aviation is lack of policy continuity. Although, it serves no usefulness if a policy that is seen not to be working is discarded with a view to fine tuning or reworking for the public.
It is observed that many of the roadmaps are not new, but slightly different in name adjustment to make them look real.
A typical example is airport remodeling, which successive ministers are doing under different names to meet the challenges of today.
For instance, the plan to set up a national carrier predates the current administration and it is one Sirika and the entire government is pursuing vigorously, but it is not certain how that appears to be achieved within a few months to the end of the administration.
But Sirika again assured that a new airline for Nigeria would be born early next year. Hopes have been raised in the past. It remains to be seen how the project is delivered.
Can Sirika tow a different path?
It is indisputable that the aviation ministry has far exceeded the past administration in the area of provision of infrastructure when one considers the speed at which the Abuja Airport runway was upgraded in less than six months and also the speed at which the Enugu airport was fixed, decision to fix the Murtala Muhammed Airport run way 18/L airfield lighting that was becoming embarrassing to the country since over 18 years and the installation of RESA Airport Data System platform ending once and for all, the challenges associated with passenger facilitation that has bedeviled the airports since June when SITA 10-years contract came to an end.
Four promises that stood out in Sirika’s roadmap are the establishment of a national carrier, the concession of four of the nation’s international airports, the establishment of the maintenance, repair and the overhaul centre (MRO), and lastly, the establishment of the aviation leasing company, which is the aircraft leasing programme.
While some of them may not be achievable before 2023, the setting up of an airline for Nigeria looks feasible, key infrastructure projects have been undertaken, concession of the four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano is almost concluded.
A chieftain of the Aviation Safety Round Table (ASRT) and Head, Research & Corporate Travel at Zenith Travals, Olumide Ohunayo, alleged that many of the road maps by successive ministers of aviation were laced with underlining contracts attached to them, which are not done in the overall interest of the country.
His words: “Until the system changes, we will continue to have a series of road maps that have provided the desired results. Every Minister jettisons the policy of their predecessors and starts his own.
We must continue to work hard to have appropriate air maps that would continue to be beneficial to all. We have lost the MRO to Ghana in spite of the fact that we are a category one aviation country. Without a sound aviation roadmap, we cannot attract credible investors into the country.”
A former Chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Noggie Meggison, disclosed that policy inconsistency had militated against a clear-cut policy for the industry, adding that Nigeria needed a robust aviation roadmap content that will fly with the decision to carry everybody along in its implementation.
“We need to look at the roadmap. Is it a roadmap put together by praise singers or people who have the interest of the country at heart. That is food for thought,” he said.
The absence of trust in the implementation of public policies and facilitation of a holistic execution of government programmes among successive governments in Nigeria could partly be ascribed to institutional systems that are malfunctioning.