Why lawmakers should tread softly on Bayelsa airport licence

NIGERIA’S politicians have come again doing what they know how to do best, that is, always playing to the gallery any time a matter of national importance in the aviation sector arises.

It is no longer news how all the government sectors and its parastatals and agencies have become an extension of the political parties where the politicians continue to test their powers at any slightest provocation without recourse to the negative implications of their decisions on the targeted sector.

It is unfortunate that this power flexing has not even exempted sensitive sectors like the aviation which is run in line with international standard as stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) where Nigeria as a member state is compelled to adhere to all the recommended and standard practices guarding and guiding its activities.

Aviation activities are expected to be carried out devoid of local politics or any emotional sentiments because of its sensitivity as it affects human lives and cargo movement across the globe through seamless air travels provided by the various aviation authorities particularly the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, being the regulatory body on whose shoulder lies the responsibility of ensuring all safety rules affecting airport safety and security are followed to the letter.

This once again brings to the fore the ongoing debacle surrounding the issuing of licence to the N60 billion newly inaugurated Bayelsa airport which pitched the immediate past government of the state against the NCAA.

The immediate past governor, Hon Seriake Dickson at the inauguration of the airport had accused the NCAA management of playing politics with the refusal to release the licence that will allow commercial operations to commence at the airport.

The management of the authority had swiftly defended their action which they said was far from any politics but purely on safety grounds attributed to the failure of the state to provide the required perimeter fence around the airport.

Surprisingly, the safety reasons given by the regulatory body for refusing the Bayelsa airport managers the operational licence did not make sense to the country’s House of Representatives members who have since called on the Federal Government to direct the NCAA and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to issue the licence to allow the Bayelsa Airport to start operations.

The call was said to have followed the adoption of a motion moved by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu; Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu; Minority Whip, Gideon Gwani; Mr Fred Obua and Mr Preye Oseke at the plenary last week.

Adopting the motion titled ‘Need for the Federal Government to Grant Operational Rights to the Bayelsa Airport, the House resolved to urge Federal Government to direct NCAA and FAAN to immediately grant Bayelsa Airport the operational rights.”

The position of the lawmakers which has been viewed as a serious violation of international aviation rules regarding safety in the sector has been described as one of the unnecessary interferences in purely aviation matter which should be left in the hands of professionals.

The lawmakers’ decision has gone to further confirm the belief that one of the major problems confronting the sector today is its politicisation where issues strictly bordering on aviation safety are often hijacked by the politicians who know little or nothing about them.

For the calibre of the lawmakers who have not only travelled out of the country, but must have at one time or the other observed how aviation related issues are managed in line with international rules, to think they can politicise issue of perimeter fence is dangerous.

The whole world is watching to see how the lawmakers intend to encourage the skipping of a safety component like perimeter fence in an environment where activities of militants and kidnappings are very rampant.

Should the lawmakers have their way, one obvious thing is that they will be held responsible should the airport record any security breach in the nearest future while the NCAA would surely have many questions to answer from both within and outside Nigeria about its competency on safety issues.

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