RECENTLY, the Chairman House Committee on Aviation, Honourable Nnolim Nnaji during an interactive session with some journalists made some statements bordering on the country’s aviation sector and the way to transform the sector.
Nnaji during the session touched on the areas he felt needed to be seriously looked into by his committee in conjunction with their counterparts in the Senate Committee on Aviation led by Senator Dino Melaye.
So far with his moves and outbursts, it seems Nnaji, who coincidentally is a first timer in the National Assembly seems to be up to the task ahead of his committee under the ninth National Assembly, or rather, he must have done his home work well to have known where the shoe is pinching the sector.
Among those areas the lawmaker has spoken about with a promise to prevail on the general National Assembly to come to the aid of the aviation sector include: the lopsided Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) Nigeria has with over eighty foreign countries majority of which have been found to be to the disadvange of the country and its indigenous airlines.
“I have also discovered that all the foreign airlines maintain city offices where they sell tickets directly to passengers as against what is obtainable globally thereby denying our local travel agents the opportunity of earning legitimate commissions that would have reduced capital flights and provided employment for our people.”
While promising to make the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) to explain the reasons for this anomaly, he declared that his committee will partner with agencies and the Ministry of Aviation where necessary to make the country’s airspace safe noting that NCAA must be strengthened to carry out its oversight responsibility without fear or favour.
The height of the positive vibe from Nnaji was when he announced that his committee will be engaging the leadership of the sector as soon as the House resumes from its break to further identify areas that need to be addressed to reposition the industry for efficiency and reliability.
The decision of his committee to meet with leadership of all agencies and other relevant authorities with a view to identifying problems of the sector and how to resolve them is a good way to start.
The present notion in the sector particularly with the signals coming from Nnaji is that of high hope of expectations from the ninth National Assembly committees on aviation.
No doubt, the lawmaker has studied and know so much about the sector and its challenges ranging from bad policies of government such as double taxation and unfriendly business environment, watery air service agreements, government’s failure to play international aero politics to back the indigenous airlines, preferential treatment given to foreign carriers, poor infrastructure, unstable forex market, government’s lack of credibility before local and foreign investors among many others.
Without doubt, these challenges which remain the bane of the entire sector urgently need government’s intervention through the National Assembly.
The entire sector requires people like Honourable Nnaji to use his committee’s position to prevail on the ninth assembly to work with the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika who coincidentally is also familiar with the terrain to review all the unfriendly policies which are only beneficial to the foreign airlines and their countries’ economies.
Many of the foreign airlines have continued to capitalise on the shaky policies to exploit Nigerians while on the contrary, the few Nigerian carriers designated on the same foreign routes are being frustrated by the government of the foreign countries.
While meeting with various stakeholders which must carry all relevant people together including: airlines, government agencies, unions, private companies and media, there is however the need for the committees to be on its toes as the sector possesses highly intelligent and smart professionals.
Among the professionals, there are some so called ‘questionable’ ones who will come forward with enticing proposals that cannot be resisted but beyond that lies the banana peel which may derail the good and genuine vibes the committees may initially have.
Presently, the aviation sector has the best brains and intelligent professionals, sadly, the factors militating against their hard efforts can be traced to the poor policies of government. The ninth National Assembly through the aviation committees have so much to do in coming up with robust policies that also require speedy implementation. In doing this, the committees would have written their names in gold.