By LAWANI MIKAIRU

Aviation stakeholders who many feared will not be prepared to embrace the technological change and passenger- centred policies the new Aviation Minister, Chief Osita Chidoka introduced to the aviation sector since assuming office last year, have   surprised everybody. Stakeholders, especially passengers and airline operators have keyed into the Aviation Passenger’s Service Portal for improved information between passengers, agencies and airlines.

Passengers have been able to keep the airlines on their toes by promptly reporting any erring airline to the aviation agencies for appropriate sanctions. It will be recalled that at the launching of the Aviation Passenger Services Portal, APS, on December 6, 2014 and the Aviation Commits Initiative (ACI) on 3rd February 2015, the minister emphasized the need for automation in the operations of all the Aviation Agencies.

The establishment of the APS portal for booking flights, monitoring airline flight performances, obtaining information on local destinations, etc, has in small way assisted passengers to be the “centre” of the concern of all aviation stakeholders. On Monday, last week, at Nnnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, passengers aboard Lagos bound Arik Air flight had their flight delayed for  hours.

Passengers were able to get across to the management of the airline and relevant aviation authorities and they were immediately compensated and served a light meal while they were waiting. One of the passengers affected, Alhaji Isa Shehu who spoke with Vanguard commended the Aviation Minister for the new aviation policies introduced by him which have made passengers “king” in the new era. Passengers are protected under the new   Advocacy and enforcement of Customers Bill of Rights Policy initiatives.

This Customers Bill of Rights Policy has further been strengthen by Chidoka   with his introduction of performance management systems for monitoring and improving performance of aviation workers. He also launched a sector- wide initiative Aviation Commits where all stakeholders in the industry commit to improve service delivery to the public.  At the launch, Chief Executives of all the   aviation parastatals and agencies were made to publicly commit to render prompt and reliable services to the public.

Speaking about the Aviation Commit initiative, a licensed   maintenance engineer with the default Nigeria Airways Engineer Tunde Ojo said this initiative is one of the best polices so far formulated in the Nigerian aviation sector. He added that if Nigeria Airways management and government had been forced to commit to this kind of policy, the airline would not have been default today.

Only last week, the Minister warned that any aviation agency chief executive who fails to comply with the implementation of the Aviation Revenue Automation Project (ARAP) project within  60 days would be sanctioned. This is coming after the minister approved the report. The report is aimed at automating all aviation related activities at the nation’s airports. The minister approved the report and recommendations of the committee after the submission of the report by the committee chairperson, Mrs. Janet Adepegba, last Monday in Lagos.

Chidoka had  inaugurated the ARAP committee to “ decide, recommend and conduct analysis meant to make the aviation sector more competitive by reversing the current negative trends in the industry in order to put it in a favourable light in the global world.” The minister said that the ministry has also approved a review in the cost and charges of the automation system. And he has given all agencies one week for the implementation of the project cost and their targets.

He said “The project is structured and empowered to bring to reality the vision and mission of the aviation industry, which is to make the industry a world Class provider of safe, secured and comfortable transport industry.” The minister expressed optimism that the implementation of the project will increase the efficiency of Nigerians and other workers in the aviation industry.

He added that it will enable agencies in the sector deliver higher quality services to Nigerians “that is self-sustaining and pivotal to social economic growth, and to transform the sector into an efficient, profitable and preferred mode of transportation”. On how far some of these polices have helped in making the aviation sector more efficient, the minister said : “I looked at the performance of Arik on the aviation service passengers portal and found that in January, they only have 20 per cent on-time departures. By February, they have inched up to 42 per cent.

I also saw that First Nation Airline is number one in February with 56 per cent coming up from 37per cent in January. “So it gives me some hope that what we are talking about as regards commitment, performance measurement and monitoring is beginning to provide dividends.”

To check the high level corruption in the aviation industry, especially the airports across the country, the minister directed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, to partner the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, to check malpractices in FAAN and enhance the delivery of efficient services. Chief Osita Chidoka gave the directives during his address at the EFCC anti-corruption interactive session, organised for management staff of FAAN at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja .

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