In this dynamic aviation landscape, where clarity and collaboration are paramount, the call for autonomy echoes loudly. At the recent Aviation Stakeholders Forum, participants discussed concerns about the autonomy of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
One participant highlighted that past politicians inevitably exert excessive influence on the regulatory agency.
Minister Keyamo’s Pledge
In his first official role, Minister Festus Keyamo committed to non-political interference in the NCAA’s core mandate.
During the forum’s progression, Minister Keyamo urged the NCAA to address interference openly, whether from him or the President. He shared, “Sometimes he acts and informs me, no approvals needed except for travels and funding. Not decisions on regulation.”
He revealed that the NCAA already has a special status by law. Furthermore, before anyone questions or removes the DGCA from office they have to go to the Legislature and give reasons.
“So in terms of legal requirements, in terms of office security, we have reached the ICAO Standards. In addition to that special status you have, what extra protection and elevation do you need? Keyamo asked.
Regulatory Oversight Dilemma
Captain Musa Nuhu, the Director General of Civil Aviation, emphasized the NCAA’s unique legal standing. “FAAN and NAMA have projects, but we lack awareness of their purpose. These initiatives should address identified system deficiencies,” Nuhu stressed, emphasising the need for awareness and collaboration.
Ideal Structure vs. Reality
Stakeholders raised concern on how ICAO auditors perceive Nigeria’s system. juxtaposing what is on paper and what is on ground and the result does not add up.
Former Secretary General of the African Civil Aviation Commission, Ms. Iyabo Sosina, stressed the need for clear roles. She highlighted that unclear responsibilities among aviation entities affected past audit scores.
Sosina said,”Now Nigeria has an almost ideal structure in terms of the parastatals in existence. You have an entity in charge of airspace management, an entity in charge of airports and you have the regulator. The regulator is at the apex and should always be at the apex. ICAO comes to audit the regulator and as an adjunct, the services of NAMA and FAAN are audited.That’s the way it’s supposed to be and the reason why we have not performed optimally in the past audits, is that reason. Apparently,when FAAN or NAMA needs to do something and the CAA is telling them how, they don’t do it. And they get the support of the Minister and so that hamstrings the CAA.”
“Clarify roles, eliminate overlaps for optimal performance. Nigeria can score 96-98% in audits,” Sosina emphasized. However, without NCAA’s oversight function over FAAN and NAMA, progress is hindered.
Captain Ibrahim Mshelia emphasized the DGCA’s pinpointing of issues, stressing that the NCAA should surpass, not match, service providers. He stated, “All service providers, whether government entities like FAAN, NAMA, NCAT, etc., or private, are subject to NCAA regulations.”
“How autonomous is the NCAA?” Captain Ibrahim Mshelia questioned, advocating for treating the NCAA distinctly, capable of making aviation declarations without government scrutiny.
Minister Keyamo concluded by stressing the need for a hierarchical reporting structure. He envisioned, “Let them report to the NCAA. Then the NCAA reports to me!” This hierarchical model aimed to reinforce the oversight role of the NCAA.
As stakeholders navigate the intricate web of regulations, the vision for a robust regulator stands as a beacon of progress. The journey toward autonomy is not just a bureaucratic shift but a collective commitment to elevate Nigeria’s aviation standards.