Of late there have been many cry outs by industry stakeholders who feel that federal government through the Ministers of Aviation have been paying lip service to provision of infrastructure in the sector with press statements and no action.
Last week, Managing Director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL) Isaac Orulagbagbe joined stakeholders to decry the poor infrastructure across the nation’s airports stating that they (the equipment) were overdue for replacement.
The SAHCOL boss said that the facilities at the various airports especially the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Ikeja were over stressed and called for extension adding that there was no growth without a good airport as it drives the economy of any nation.
Describing the airport environment as a very difficult one to operate, Mr Orulagbagbe said, “Government should look at the infrastructure across all the airports especially the Murtala Mohammed International Airport; it is taking ten times the capacity that it was made to carry”.
Other stakeholders have said that government continues to make promises on the provision of air field lighting to the Runway 18 Left without delivering since December 2008 when FAAN decided to impress the then Minister, Babatunde Omotoba, who hastily commissioned the runway without airfield lighting to take to glory.
Another area worthy of note are the conveyor belts along at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport that are nioi longer operational, the belts which are as old as the airport itself have become source of worry for the air travellers.
Some air travellers spend over two hours after landing in a bid to claim their luggage.
More than a dozen thimes, there have been calls to replace the conveyor belts with latset technology but to no avail as government would rather spend hundred of millions to renovate toiltes and all press conerenes to b oost their egos.
Another area is the capacity crunch at the airports, stakeholders feel that the international airports have outgrown its passengers specifications and that it needs expansion of like others would say, another terminal.
Nigerian aviation stakeholders are challenging government to refocus on the activities taking place in the sector with the argument that if the country is to continually enjoy the United States Federal Aviation Administration’s Category One status, continuous investment both in human and capital should continue while the Act setting up the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria too should be reviewed to create an enabling environment for operators.
An aviation consultant, Mr. Deba Uwadiae observed that the new government should endeavour to know the facilities and equipment on ground in the country’s aviation sector, saying their improvement and sustainability would go a long way in determining the success or otherwise of the country’s aviation industry.
He said that the sustenance of the America Category One Status would largely depend on the items used to clear it, stressing that neglect of any of these items would affect the country’s rating and performance.
On the recently commissioned Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria scheme by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Uwadiae, emphasised that the maintenance of the facilities must be a top priority for the new government, stressing that appointment of professional as aviation minister would go a long way in entrenching safety in the industry.
He said, “The new administration first of all must know what we have in the industry before taking over and that is why we are saying a professional in the industry must be appointed as the Minister of Aviation.
“Category One Status must be sustained and this can be achieved in way that all the items that we used to clear the Category One must be sustained. The TRACON equipment is not just decoration, the equipment must be maintained regularly and there should not be a compromise in this so that the equipment can be maintained regularly.”
Talking on the airport facilities, Uwadiae maintained that the facilities at the airports across the country must be given a facelift while the terminal building too should be improved upon to create enabling environments for users.
He posited that the only way an enabling environment could be achieved for users by the government is for it to break the airports into regions and tag them regional airports.
According to him, each airport should be administered by regional director who turn would be answerable to the Managing Director of FAAN and said for this to be possible, the Act setting up the agency should be reviewed.
He said, “The only way you can achieve that is to break the airports into regions and call them regional airports authority that is supervised by FAAN. We need the FAAN airports to be broken into region with each airport governed by its own regional director, but the oversight function can be carried out by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
“This is necessary because FAAN as it is being operated right now is not able to maintain the airport efficiently for viability. The resources they have cannot manage theses airports. In other words, I’m asking that the act setting up FAAN should be reviewed whereby the regional airports authority can be operated under the present FAAN just like we have the aviation Act of 2006.
“This will accelerate growth and bring more life into the airports and thereby increasing the number of people travelling by air and make the airports viable.
If all these things are looked into, it shows that whosoever comes in will make impact in the Nigerian aviation industry.”
Also, the Secretary General of the Nigerian Aviation Professional Association, Com. Abdulrazaq Saidu in an interview with the paper said that the only way for the country to continue to enjoy peaceful operations, is for the Federal Government to continue to focus its more attention in the country’s aviation sector because of the strategic position the sector holds in the economic development of the country.
He observed that in the past, the Federal Government had not been fair to the sector in terms of funding and appointment of managers to the sector.
Saidu urged President Goodluck Jonathan not to bow to pressure from politicians who might show interest in the sector, stressing that the appointment of non-aviation professionals by government in the past had not add values to the sector.
He said that the little progress recorded in the sector so far could be attributed to the professionals at the helms of affairs in the sector, stressing that the government of Olusegun Obasanjo professionalised the sector after the triple crashes of 2005 and 2006, but failed to appoint an aviation practitioner as a minister in the sub-sector.
“Obasanjo’s government professionalised those areas while the people now brought their professional know-how in their areas and ensured that the country’s aviation move forward. So, that is why we are now saying that within these chief executives in these parastatals, Jonathan should appoint a honourable minister of aviation.
“He has their dossiers and he knows those who have performed very well in terms of provision of infrastructure, equipment, accurate weather forecast, proper pilot-controller communication and proper inspection of aircraft by the regulatory body. That is why we have recorded zero serious accident since the former president professionalised the sector through their parastatals.
“But sending teachers, mechanics and carpenter among others as a minister of aviation is not it because they draw the hands of progress backward. There is inconsistency in policy and it is also inconsistent with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s rules and regulations. Any of the chief executives that try to advice them are always taken as enemies.”
Saidu expressed regret at the dilapidating infrastructure at the nation’s airports and specifically mentioned the absence of runway lighting at the domestic runway otherwise known as 18L of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos for more than five years.
He pointed out that with the lack of lighting on the runway; domestic aircraft cannot land or take off on the runway.
He expressed again that the commissioning of the Enugu Airport by FAAN without adequate infrastructure was a minus on the part of the government, stressing that the former minister used her political might to push for the commission of the airport despite all the glaring lapses.
He also advised the new government to allow the agencies especially FAAN to use their Internally Generated Revenues to develop themselves, adding that most of the privatisations, commercialisations and concessions in the sub-sector are lopsided. He called for review of most of them.