STAKEHOLDERS in the aviation industry have indicted the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for what some described as the regulatory body’s docile role in conducting its oversight over the original body meant to carry out Runway maintenance stating that this has brought to the situation where it is now.In an electronic mail to our platform, President of the Aviation Round Table (ART), Elder Gbenga Olowo who queried how the runway got to its present deplorable state argued that what has happened over the years have allowed for little to be desired from the regulatory body.
Olowo said,”This could only have happened due to the fact that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which is responsible for conducting safety oversight of the sector, was docile and failed completely in ensuring that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) religiously complies with the Runway Maintenance Programme for NAIA, which is an operational safety requirement.”
“The failure of FAAN to strictly follow the Runway Maintenance Programme and conduct regular repairs and rehabilitation of the runway as at when due coupled with the lethargic oversight of NCAA have effectively contributed in bringing the situation to where it is today.”
According to him, the decision as to whether a runway should be closed or not rests within the purview of NCAA as provided for in the Act establishing the Regulatory Agency and not the Executive arm of government.
“ Unfortunately,” he said,” constant political interference by the Executive arm of government, the Ministry, continues to usurp the role of NCAA and has hampered its effectiveness especially the current Director General.”
“We therefore challenge the NCAA to be alive to its responsibility of safety oversight by conducting a thorough assessment of the status of all the runways at the various airports in the country in an effort to correct the problems immediately and give each of them a clean bill of health in order to forestall a reoccurrence of the Abuja saga.”
Elder Olowo called on FAAN to develop Runway Maintenance Programme approved by NCAA if none is currently available.
“FAAN should therefore ensure that it develops a Runway Maintenance Programme approved by NCAA if none is currently available. NCAA on the other hand must through regular oversight, ensure FAAN’s compliance with approved Runway Maintenance Programme. Furthermore, the Runway Maintenance Programme must be factored on periodic number of landings rather than on the age of the runway. Finally, Periodic Runway Maintenance Programme would make repairs and maintenance possible if the Runway Maintenance Programme is regularly implemented.”
Buttressing the NCAA’s negligence further, Security Consultant Group Captain John Ojikutu also agreed that the Abuja runway got to this level because of lack of periodic maintenance programmes and the NCAA’ s negligence to implement it as well as a gross lack of funds available to carry out maintenance.
Ojikutu said, “We got to the level we are firstly; because it would appear we do not have periodic maintenance programmes or we have, but the responsible agency has willfully neglected to implement it and the NCAA too has neglected its oversight on the compliance just as the NASS has also neglected its oversight on the responsible agencies.”
“ Secondly, government agencies have complained many times and over the years of lack of funds because of huge indebtedness of the domestic airlines operators to pay for the various services they have rendered to them. These airlines are owned by politically exposed persons who have enjoyed the privilege of debt concession with their influence in government. Because of such influence, the NCAA on the other hand has remained passive in ensuring that these airlines operators comply with the necessary provisions of the economic regulations in the relevant sections of the NACRs Part 18.”
The consultant recalled that twice, there had been attempts to effect said maintenance or repairs of the runway but the political class at the National Assembly had preferred to push for a second runway for the airport, a proposal shutdown because of the cost.
He said, “Twice in 2010 and 2015, there were attempts to effect maintenance or repairs on the runway when the surface was noticed to have been badly damaged. The NASS was aware and had public hearing on repairs that ordinarily should have been under recurrence budgetary approval for FAAN. “
“Unfortunately, the issue of a second runway appeared then to be of primary concern to the political elite especially the NASS. Whatever other reasons that made the poor runway surface and the critical need for its maintenance not to have been addressed on these two occasions are best explained by the responsible government agencies and the NASS.”
Ojikutu went on,” Every runway requires periodic maintenance after several landings by aircraft, just as the aircraft does after several hours of engine rotations and air navigational aids too after certain periods in compliant to their respective approved maintenance programmes. While other aviation safety facilities and services have periodic maintenance programmes approved by the NCAA, we are yet to hear of same for the running from the responsible agencies, I.e. FAAN and NCAA.”