ONCE again, I say welcome to the newly appointed Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu who has replaced Captain Usman Muhtar in office.
With the background of the incoming director-general, even though it is obvious that he is coming into a familiar terrain,one thing he may not really realise is that the NCAA he is coming to manage presently is not the NCAA that Nigeria had 10 or more years ago.
Without any bias, the present NCAA whose major responsibility is to regulate all civil aviation issues in the country’s aviation sector vis-a-vis ensuring all airlines operating in the country comply with safety rules and standards without compromising safety, making sure the sister agencies play their roles of making activities safe and secure through the installation of adequate navigational equipments that will seamlessly aid smooth take off and landing of aircraft and make the airport environment safe and comfortable.
Among other functions of the regulatory agency is to ensure formation and implementation of friendly policies that will make the sector active and encouraging to investment, and fighting the cause of the traveling public.
In all honesty, in the recent past, the NCAA, as an agency responsible for the above roles, has fallen short of public expectations for obvious reasons.
Without doubt most key players across the sector are not too comfortable with the activities of the NCAA, particularly in the area of safety oversight under the immediate past leadership.
One of the complaints being laid at the doorstep of the NCAA is the failure under the last administration to assert its constitutional power in the areas of enforcement of safety, security and economy on all airline operators including both government and privately owned.
For sure, well organised and regular economic oversight on airlines’ financial health would have detected on time the failure in the health of airlines like Arik which went into borrowing almost two years into operation.
Many have attributed the slackness on the part of the immediate past DG to what they termed the hijack of many functions of the NCAA by the Ministry of Aviation.
Unfortunately, the NCAA in the last dispensation was slack in the enforcement of safety regulations affecting public operators and the economic regulations on the private operators.
Many stakeholders are also not happy with the level of enforcement on public operators, especially those not complying with the periodic maintenance programmes of aeronautical facilities like the runways, taxiways, the periodic calibration of navigational aids. The stakeholders are lamenting that all these infrastructure are left until they become faulty or exceed their operational tolerance limits.
On the private operators’ side, the NCAA in the recent past has been accused of not not sufficiently enforcing the economic regulations on the airlines which they said explained why a lot of them are not healthy financially with six of them going into economic downturn or breaking down. All these would have been avoided if the NCAA had through a thorough periodic oversight and economic audit discovered these and alerted the airlines.
The failure of the regulatory body to be spontaneous led to the high state of disrepair common to many airports across the country like that of the Enugu airport runway.
These areas and the present level of aviation security particularly at the Lagos airport should be on the front burner of the incoming DG.
Another area some key players want the new DG to review is the area of the regulatory body recovering its autonomy and in playing its role under the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) policies regarding the present loose signing of such agreements with foreign countries at the expense of Nigeria.
The NCAA should review the number of start-up aircraft approved for a new airline operator which at the last count was put at two which many have argued is not adequate. Besides, there is the need for more stringent conditions to be put on ground for incoming airlines to obtain the Air Operators Certificate (AOC) as many airlines on getting the important document fail to utilise it.
The new DG as soon as he assumes office should hold crucial meetings with airlines, sister agencies, workers of the agency and even the unions may be, on separate basis as this will enable him to get first hand information he will need to set target for himself. In doing this, the new DG will not only realise the level the agency has degenerated to in its functions, but will pave the way for his success and the restoration of lost public confidence in the agency.