By Dirisu Yakubu
Aviation unions in the country, Thursday, advised the federal government to dismiss the Steve Oronsaye panel recommendation for the merger of service providers-the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, THE Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, the apex regulatory authority for civil aviation in the country.
The unions, the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSAN and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots, NAAPE in a joint statement on Thursday premised their argument on what they suspected to be a lack of adequate knowledge by the panel on the workings of NCAA in a relation to the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO.
In a statement signed by Comrade Francis Akinjole, ATSSAN Secretary-General, and Comrade Umoh Ufonime, Deputy Secretary-General of NAAPE, the unions reminded the federal government that their opposition to the proposed merger dates back to previous administrations on professional grounds.
The statement read in part: “This cautionary pronouncement is being made against the backdrop that the Steve Oronsaye Committee was either ill-advised or did not possess adequate knowledge about Nigeria’s obligation in the area of establishment of a state civil aviation system as prescribed in relevant documents of the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, to which Nigeria is a signatory to its Convention (the Chicago Convention 1944) and an active member.
“We respectfully wish to remind the federal government that about six years ago, the coalition of Aviation Unions wrote to His Excellency Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, protesting the then proposal for the merger of aviation agencies sequel to the same Oronsaye Committee Report. It is worthy of mention that the unions copied the said letter to the then President of the ICAO Council, Dr. Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliyu, a Nigerian, with a call for the intervention of ICAO on the issue.
“It is important to state here that because of the premium ICAO attaches to the independence/autonomy of Civil Aviation regulatory agencies around the world, and the need to separate aviation regulators from aviation services providers, the ICAO President visited Nigeria and held a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan wherein he strongly advised the government against the proposed merger. Indeed President Goodluck Jonathan heeded the advice, the reason the proposed merger was dropped.
“It is also important to state here that the effort of ICAO at promoting the autonomy of the civil aviation regulatory authorities worldwide has paid off, as most civil aviation bodies today have gained regulatory, operational, and financial autonomy. This has significantly enhanced their safety oversight capability which has translated to improved flight safety as evidenced by the huge decline in global air accident statistics.
According to the union, “another reason the government should not uphold the recommendation of the merger of NAMA, NIMET and NCAA is that whereas the first two are; air navigation services provider, ANSP, which includes the provision of over-flight services to international flights crossing Nigeria Airspace, and aero meteorological services provider respectively, the NCAA is the industry regulatory agency. Therefore, merging them will put the “merged entity” in a position of conflict of interest, that is, a situation whereby a service provider will now regulate itself – a very serious and challenging phenomenon that, in the long run, will result in complacency, corruption, and inefficiency in service delivery.”
They further added that “if the intention of the Oronsaye Committee is to reduce the cost of governance or to eliminate duplication of functions in the three entities penned through its recommendation for the merger, then the committee got it absolutely wrong because NCAA stands alone as a regulator with clearly defined responsibilities enabled by its establishment Act (civil Aviation Act 2006), that is, to regulate civil aviation and air navigation in Nigeria.
“On the other hand, the NAMA was established to provide air navigation services that will enable the safe take-off and landing of aircraft within the Nigerian airspace while the NIMET provides Aero-metrological services, which in fact, is just about 10% when viewed against the 90% meteorological services NIMET provides to other key sectors of the Nigerian economy such as agriculture, oil, and gas, construction industry, marine, inland waterways, etc.
The statement continued: “NAMA and the NCAA do not get any subvention from the federation account. They are both IGR (internally generated revenue) agencies with huge capital requirements that are funded from the revenue they generate from the services they provide to the aviation industry. We equally fault the recommendation that the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR of NAMA, NCAA, and NIMET be paid into the federation account from which releases will be made to the Agencies for their day-to-day running and payment of salaries. This in effect will negate the principle of autonomy for the regulator and even for the Air Navigation Service Providers, ANSP.”