No doubt another trouble is brewing in the country’s aviation sector obviously due to another unpopular policy of government coming at a very bad time.
The policy which has since created additional tension in a sector that has been pummelled by the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic with itseffects, has portrayed the government as insensitive to the imminent plight that may bedevil the sector after the pandemic.
The latest of such bad policies is the relocation order reeled out by the Minister of Aviation, Senator HadiSirika to all aviation agencies to move their head offices to Abuja.
The question is: why is it now that the agencies and the sector are struggling to survive a global pandemic that the minister wants this order which was mooted in 2012 to be complied with if not to create another distraction.
Obviously, the sector, prior to now, had been confronted with myriad of challenges impeding the progress of aviation agencies, airlines and other relevant stakeholders which required government’s assistance but unfortunately help has not come.
This was the case until the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic which led to the closure of the country’s airspace and the airports, suspension of airline business and other aviation activities.
The various measures introduced by government to prevent the virus from spreading have almost crumbled the domestic airlines though as it is in other climes.
Even while other countries of the world have started announcing palliative measures to help their airlines and aviation sectors survive the post COVID-19 scourge, Nigerian governments still playing chess game with its own.
It therefore, became so disheartening that the minister of aviation, rather than encourage the airlines and the entire sector with how government intends to help flatten the COVID-19 curve, decided to add to the tension on ground by ordering that aviation agencies should relocate their headquarters to Abuja.
The 45-day ultimatum reeled out to the agencies to move became more unrealistic owing to the cost implications of such movement on the agencies already battered by the pandemic virus.
Information gathered revealed that one of the agencies has started mobilising its workers to move to Abuja and each worker is being paid N2.2million while the senior staff to be affected are getting higher amount. At this cost, the burden will no doubt tell on the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency in carrying out its functions which require huge funding.
While no one is stopping the government from moving the agencies out of Lagos to Abuja or wherever it chooses, the contradiction is however made manifest in the quick enforcement attached by the same government that has yet to speak on how it intends to prevent the agencies and the sector from going into extinction after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The relocation order which has obviously added to the problems of the agencies and their workers in particular has led to endless questions for the government from key players and the unions which include: how the agencies are expected to do the magic of moving their head offices; is the ministry going to provide the offices; who pays for the accommodation of the key officials; who takes care of their transfer allowances and other logistics?
All these questions are calling for answers because of the obvious economic hardship this order intends to further bring to the entire sector at this critical time.
One begins to wonder why the 2012 relocation order must be implemented now and within 45 days as if the order will bring solutions to the imminent COVID-19 time-bomb hanging in the balance. The timing of the order does not reflect the sensitivity of the government towards the uncertainty that may befall the agencies and the sector post COVID-19.
Without doubt, this latest order will create serious crisis for the sector and if the government sincerely wants the sector to continue to be in existence after COVID-19, it should step in and suspend the relocation order till a more convenient period.
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