President Goodluck Jonathan
Federal government a fortnight ago decided to adopt the Steve Oronsanya Committee White Paper report suggesting the merger of so many industry agencies in the country with the intent to help reduce the overhead and the redundant agencies and workforce in the country.
One of the recommendations made by the report is the merger of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA), Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Nigeria Meteorology agency (NIMET) to re-establish what is called the Federal Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA).
Now inasmuch as government has the right to look for ways to cut cost of running the country it is a widely agreed notion especially in the air transport industry that government has been misled and is about to make a mistake that could put the country’s air transport system in jeopardy.
First and foremost the Oronsanya committee was given a job to do and thus it did the job albeit without consulting anybody within the industry with technical expertise or anyone with the know how, it was just a routine, let merge this with that without finding out their functions.
Aviation is not a Nigerian thing, it is a global business regulated internationally with the best standards and recommended practices with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) being the custodian and Nigeria as a signatory to all the Conventions of this body needs to watch it thus they land in a mess.
Just a few weeks back the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States came to do a reassessment of the country’s regulatory process to see if it has been following these standards and recommendations and recommend the country retains its much vaunted Category One
However, if feelers are anything to go by, this recent move of the federal government may have been the directive that would actually tell these foreigners that the country is not worthy of the Category One as it flouts these SARPs.
Already this is causing major worries for the industry and watchers as it is feared that not only will 14 years of hard work be flushed down the drain but so many laudable safety plans and initiatives will amount to nothing as the country will be termed unsafe.
On the merger, the Air Transport Services senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) along with the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) as well as the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) held a joint conference where they pointed out how inimical to the nation’s aviation this move, if perpetuated is.
According to the unions, represented by the ATSSSAN National President, Comrade Benjamin Okewu, NUATE National President, Mohammed Sufianu and the NAAPE Secretary, Ochemba Abba, the Oronsanya industry did not dig deep into the industry to understand its functioning and the reason of the separation of service provider from the regulator describing it further as ill timed, ill-conceived and inimical to the industry.
“The unions view the decision of the government to merge the NCAA – a regulatory entity with NAMA and NIMET both service providers within the aviation industry as ill-timed and ill-conceived and inimical to the sustenance of the feat Nigeria has attained in the area of international certification by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Federal Aviation Administration of the United states of America (FAA CAT. 1).”
The Unions reminded the federal government about Nigeria’s obligations under the Chicago Convention 1944 and the consequential commitment to subject its civil aviation activities to regular routine and scheduled oversight/inspection by the international civil aviation organisation (ICAO) which is charged with the responsibility of setting standards for civil aviation and over sighting same globally through its universal safety audit oversight program.
Specifically the federal government was called to order to note that ICAO through its mandatory audit programme checklist has a protocol (USOAP CMA PROTOCOL QUESTION ORG.2.023) that relates to the issue of conflict of interest within the civil aviation regulatory system which forbids civil aviation regulatory authorities from being service providers.
“In fact this subject was extensively discussed at the 38th session of the ICAO assembly in Montreal and a resolution was passed with a directive to members’ states to endeavour through national legislation to separate civil aviation regulatory responsibilities from those of service providers.
“ If NCAA is merged with NAMA and NIMET can it oversight itself in a situation where a merged part of it violates the safety prerogative of the industry one way or the other? This is why ICAO in the 38th Assembly said there would be a conflict of interest and asked that countries that have not passed legislation to divide the functions of the regulator and service provider do so. I wonder why we are on the right track and plan to go back 20 years.”
ATSSSAN called on the federal government to also note that what it seeks to do by the proposed merger is a situation that existed over 20 years ago in the days of the defunct FCAA, when the FCAA as it then was , carried out both regulatory and service provider functions .
“That system was found to be unprogressive, dysfunctional and unable to project adequately the safety oversight responsibility of the then FCAA. Consequently, the federal government scraped the FCAA in 1996 and transferred its safety and economic regulatory functions to two departments in the federal ministry of aviation namely, Directorate of Economic Regulation and Monitoring (DERAM) and Directorate of Safety Regulation and Monitoring (DSRAM).”
“After wide consultations both at home and abroad with stakeholders on the way forward with regards to its safety oversight obligation under the Chicago convention, the federal government saw the need to conform with the prescriptions of ICAO on the structure of a state regulatory system (ICAO Doc.8335) and global best practices by establishing NCAA in 1999 as a distinct regulatory authority separate from the service providers to with; NAMA, FAAN, NIMET.
Also reacting to this, the airline operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON have told government to halt the plan to collapse three agencies (NAMA, NCAA and NIMET) into one agency.
The AON says the decision was totally against the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulation in section 8335.
According to ICAO, “Separation of provision from regulation is consistent with principles of good governance; the regulatory oversight function must be seen as independent and transparent”ICAO which is made up of 197 countries member state over 110 have complied and have moved on with the demerger of agencies. Germany, UK, France, Russia, Ireland, Canada, Ukraine to number a few are some of the 110 countries that have demerged
Executive chairman of AON, Capt. Nogie Meggison who spoke to journalists yesterday said,autonomy for the air navigation services provider and its separation from the regulatory oversight function was well established in ICAO guidance material.
He said, “It is not right to have the NCAA as the referee and the player at the same time. NCAA has been statutory established in compliance with ICAO set standards and practices
“We believe information that was given to the committee set up in 2011 to make that decision is obviously now obsolete and outdated as per ICAO regulation which Nigeria is not only a signatory to but also the first African ICAO President today is a Nigerian who headed the committee who in 1999 separated the demurred the agencies from the then federal Civil Aviation Authority, FCAA as per the above ICAO quoted regulation. Even United States of America that we are using as one of the strong point used by the committee are in the process of demerging. The process is currently in the Congress to pass the Act on the NextGen regulation that will separate the agencies from each other”.
“It is baffling that countries like South Africa and Ghana came to Nigeria to learn about our independent agencies and how they run as per ICAO regulations have gone back to their countries to comply what they came to learn from us. Unfortunately, Nigeria is attempting to go back to the obsolete form. It is like move from analogue to digital and decide to go back to analogue system again.
He disclosed that the country was doing everything to fail the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) category one aviation status.
“We know that government is trying to cut cost because of the recurrent expenditure being 80% of the budget, but these agencies are self-sustaining with without government funding them. we plead with the government that they should take a second look at the recommendation because of the danger it portends to the industry at large”.
On the decision not to privatise the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the country should move with what is happening in the world.
In Europe and the United States, the like of JFK, Heathrow, Hartfield (Atlanta) airports had long been privatized.
On NIMET, he opined that the agency should be taken away from aviation. it functions far exceed aviation because they deal with maritime, agriculture and so on.
Simply put, the Unions collectively and other major stakeholders have appealed to the president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) in the interest of the safety, Nigeria’s commitment under the Chicago convention and related protocols, Nigeria’s presidency of the ICAO council and above all in the interest of the undertaking Nigeria made to the FAA on the independence and autonomy of the NCAA, to reverse the merger pronouncement.