PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari last week appointed and assigned portfolios to 43 ministers to manage the affairs of the various government ministries for the next four years. As expected, the aviation sector was not left out of the wind of change.
The appointments and assignments of the ministers led to the return of Senator Hadi Sirika to the ministry of aviation again.
Sirika should count himself lucky for being able to retain his position as the substantive minister of aviation that will manage the ministry and all the aviation agencies for another four years.
With his return, Sirika has surely made history as at the end of the four years, he would have become the longest serving minister to run the affairs of the ministry for eight years at a stretch.
The good thing about his second coming is that he is back to a familiar terrain hence, needs no long tutoring or mentoring to hit the ground running.
He may have made some impacts in his first tenure, but obviously he was unable to impress key players in some critical areas that would have greatly repositioned the entire sector.
Again, the minister’s inability to do much may perhaps be due to perhaps too many issues calling for action at the same time. However, with the second coming of the minister, much is expected of him.
While different stakeholders in the sector have been bombarding the minister with retinue of demands, the Crucial Moment is also joining in making some requests which the minister must use the first six months of his second coming to tackle as failure to do so may further complicate the challenges already dragging the soul of the sector.
Top of the requests urgently calling for attention include the need for the minister to review the over 80 Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) Nigeria through the BASA Directorate at the ministry signed with other countries, the majority of which have been found to be at disadvantage to Nigeria.
Reviewing the BASA may involve a lot of diplomatic technicalities and languages, but reviewing all the Commercial Agreements with foreign airlines especially those that are given multiple frequencies, landings and destinations outside the BASAs, are within the competence of the power of the ministry and that of the minister.
To retain and sustain the domestic routes and markets for the Nigerian private airline commercial operators, there is a very urgent need for the minister to review those commercial agreements that have given multiple landings and destination to foreign airlines.
To achieve a great deal in the areas of BASA review, the minister needs to overhaul the department at the ministry as most of the officials there are no longer in tune with the present day BASA negotiation policies.
As expected, one of your priority project in this second coming is to deliver a befitting national carrier to Nigeria, but in pursuing this, government should not do it at the expense of the private airlines whose owners have continued to invest billions of naira in the domestic airline business.
In other words, the minister should prevail on the Federal Government to, not only designate the domestic airlines on foreign routes but ensure it gives them all the required assistants such as engaging the different foreign countries in aero politics to protect the Nigerian airlines in the foreign countries.
There is the need for government to wade into the unresolved controversial concession agreements between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and its concessionaires which have negatively affected the image and credibility of government. Many private investors both from within and out of Nigeria have because of this messy situation shunned business transactions with the sector.
While welcoming the minister back for the second time, it is hoped that by the time he is rounding up his eighth year tenure, the entire sector will have become a pacesetter to the continent of Africa and role model for many nations of the world because Nigeria has what it takes but only needs a good driver. A position Senator Sirika perfectly fits into without prejudice.