In terms of policy, throughout his stay as president nothing solid has come out of the federal government in terms of a blueprint to move the industry forward most things that have happened have happened randomly going neither here nor there.
In truth, apart from the sheer randomness at which things are going in the industry there is a lack of political will especially from whoever is appointed as Minister of the sector to perform.
In countries like the United States, United Kingdom and even a country like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) there is a long term plan for the industry, in fact UAE through Emirates Group has a minimum 20 year plan for aviation in the country so despite leadership change there is a path to follow.
However, during the late president, there were ministers who lacked clout and direction and were only interested in skyrocketing costs of pet projects for unknown reason.
The late president had in 2007 appointed Diezani Alison Madueke as Minister of Transport and Felix Hassan Hyat as Minister of State for Aviation, the combination had safety as their priority and followed up on the plan however, there was dissention in ranks when it was time to relocate certain airlines from operating domestic flight from the International Airport.
Soon late Yar’Adua initiated a cabinet reshuffle that swept Hyat away and brought in Babatunde Omotoba as substantive minister.
However, Omotoba as a minister was not able to accomplish much in more than a year in office before the N63.5bn second Abuja Runway saga coupled with cabinet dissolution that engulfed him.
He was however instrumental in fueling the confusion between Bi-Courtney Aviation Services and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on the former’s forced take over of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT).
There is also the issue of reviewing the concession agreements at the nation’s gateway especially the Contractual agreement between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Bi-Courtney over the tenure the later would operate the new Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2).
Right now because of the lack of policy and focus by the administration in the aviation industry, there is a crisis brewing and most airlines have started going under with the threat that more may go.
So far, three airlines have suspended operations in the last one year.
Afrijet Airlines, Bellview Airlines and Capital Airlines have ceased operations with threats hanging over struggling airlines like IRS which is currently indebted to two major banks in the country, Chanchangi, which hitherto had 11 aircraft in its fleet currently boasts of only two operating aircraft and is indebted to a major bank.
Even Virgin Nigeria which was recently acquired by Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim is equally struggling to remain in the air and still owes another major bank a substantial amount of money and needs a lot of capital injection.
Then there is also the case of Aero, Nigeria’s oldest private carrier, which before now was the toast of passengers, but events in the last weeks have revealed that like others, the airline is also heavily indebted to another bank.
As at now, Arik Air is seemingly the only Nigerian carrier with healthy financial condition.
Captain Dele Ore, a veteran in the industry and President of Aviation Round Table (ART) also stated that there was no tangible policy by the Yar’Adua led administration and almost everything was left in the status quo.
In a telephone conversation with our correspondent he said,” I would say that there is no valid policy that I can lay my hands on that one can say this is a policy thus this s the performance.”
“He allowed the status quo to continue when he took over starting from the Presidential Adviser in Aviation, since 1999 till now the quality of advice has not been sound. The quality of advice is at par with the quality of the adviser the adviser, I would say never had any sound advise for His Excellency”
“ One good about letting the status quo stand however was that he did not touch the formidable leadership of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) who is the only pearl the industry has right now, otherwise aircraft would have continued dropping from the sky.”
Another good he did and would be remembered for is that he has the milk of kindness flowing in his vein and for this he will be remembered by the pensioners of the now liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited.”
“Besides that I cannot speak of a policy because till today we still have a non functional National Civil Aviation Policy. The policy is on ground but any minister who comes in carries out a policy somersault so anytime there is a new minister there is a new policy.”
“The parastatals are left to fend for themselves because there is no capacity for capital projects. As far as I am concerned we never made any progress in aviation.”