Aviation Unions, Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and National Association of Aircraft Pilot and Engineers (NAAPE) have written to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirka to appealled to President Muhammadu Buhari to jettison the recommendations of Stephen Oronsaye panel which advised the merger of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) as a way of cutting the cost of governance.
In the letter, Comrade Frances Akinjole, Deputy General Secretary of ATSSSAN and Comrade Amoh Ofonime, Deputy General Secretary of NAAPE revealed that emerging the three Agencies that have conflicting functions will hamper the safety of Industry.
According to the letter, the Aviation Unions said “this cautionary pronouncement is been 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 Organisation (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.”
The Union noted that “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.
“Another reason why 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 i.e. 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.
The letter stated 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 Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (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 Nigerian Meteorological Agency (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 & Gas, Construction Industry, Marine, Inland Waterways, etc.
“From the above, it is clear that there is no duplication in the services provided by the listed Agencies, as none of the services provided by any of the agencies is replicated by the other.
“Further to the above, 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 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 ANSP. Lest we forget, there is a current campaign within the ICAO system for the autonomy of ANSPs so as to make them competitive and more efficient in the provision of seamless Air Navigation Services for the aviation industry.
“We cannot end this clarion call on the Federal Government against the proposed merger without drawing the Government’s attention to the fact that the proposed merger if actualised, will attract both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) IASA CAT1 and the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit (USOAP-CMA) queries. Let it be known to all and sundry that there are specific audit protocols/questionnaires that speak to the independence/autonomy of the civil aviation regulatory authority (NCAA).
“Having toiled to attain and retain the FAA CAT1 rating and having been adjudged by ICAO as one of the frontline states in Africa in the ICAO USAOP-CMA audit, Nigeria cannot, at this point, afford to reverse and or sacrifice these monumental achievements at the altar of the proposed merger which in fact is contrary to the prescriptions of ICAO.
They said that successive governments in Nigeria since 1999 have invested massively in the institutionalisation of the regulatory authority (NCAA).
“We dare state that eighteen (18) years of preparation that have yielded significant safety improvements in the aviation industry today should not be compromised under the umbrella of an ill-advised merger. Nigerians should not forget so soon the dark days of aircraft crashes and the hard lessons we have learnt from that.
“Today, we have undertaken over 6 million take-offs and landings in commercial flights in Nigeria with zero accident, an achievement we must say, isn’t accidental. We have built institutions in the aviation industry in the past 18 years. What we expect from the government is a quick passage of the Agencies Acts before the National Assembly so as to enable consolidation on all that has been achieved, and sustainable policies that will further enable growth and new investments in the industry,” the Unions stated.