Hitherto some weeks ago, the country’s Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), one of the aviation agencies of government saddled with the job of investigating accidents and incidents whenever they occur and make recommendations to government on how to prevent recurrences had enjoyed relative calmness.
Therefore, while the other aviation agencies had at one time or the other suffered undue interference with subsequent consequences, AIB had enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere until the recent weeks.
The peaceful serenity has unfortunately been thrown to the dogs owing to the controversial secondment and promotion of a level 12 officer from Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria to AIB.
Since the secondment of the officer in question who coincidentally is the President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Benjamin Okewu, the bureau has become the battle ground for all interest groups.
Agreed that Okewu’s secondment is allowed in public service rule, but what made it ‘unique’ is the circumstances under which it took place which has generally been faulted.
The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) is at the forefront of the fight against what it described as the abuse of office allegedly perpetrated by the ATSSAN president.
According to NAAPE in its latest petition addressed to the minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, dated September 26, 2016, it drew the attention of the minister to the negative impact the controversial secondment could create.
For NAAPE:”One important negative consequence of such inaction is the fostering of impunity with its attendant dislocation of due process and normalcy”
Apart from the believe of NAAPE that Okewu’s secondment contradicted the public service rule, the decision to even make him the head of human resources at the expense of the qualified senior staff already waiting on the line to fill the position is injustice.
NAAPE is insisting that the promotion of Okewu from level 12 to 15 above other senior workers contradicted the principle which the aviation unions including ATSSSAN being led by Okewu have been fighting against.
While NAAPE should be commended for not taking the laws into its hand but chose to call the attention of the minister to the injustice, it is hoped that the minister who is a good listener will look into the controversy in the spirit of fairness in other not to create disharmony among workers at the bureau and the aviation unions.
Above all, there is no point sacrificing a whole establishment like AIB for the interest of one or two people. Besides, the controversy is becoming more dirty with the damaging documents being brandied about by some of the interested parties to score some cheap points.
One of such documents was the one that alleged that the present director of engineering in AIB, Engineer Emmanuel Diala was indicted for fraud while at the defunct Nigeria Airways a position which has since been found to be false.
Contrary to the allegation, a letter which emanated from the federal ministry of aviation, dated 28th July, 2003 and addressed to the director in question while he was at the Nigeria Airways, gave him a clean bill of health.
The setting up of a committee to look into the controversial secondment and promotion will unravel if the due process was followed and while questions being raised on : why the AIB Commissioner chose to appoint Okewu as the head of human resources when there were qualified top management staff on ground in line with civil service rules and why Okewu being a union leader should be given such an unlimited preference over senior staff he met at the bureau would have been answered for peace to reign.