By Okuneye Moyosola
It’s been almost 4 years since Senator Hadi Sirika assumed office as the Minister of State for Aviation. What achievements has he made so far? What promises did he not fulfill during his tenure? MMS Plus takes an over view of some of the critical reforms he promised to carry out as well as the areas that have not been achieved.
At the beginning of his tenure, Sirika had promised that he would concession the airports, establish Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) Centre, aircraft leasing company and a national carrier. Other plans included the upgrade of aviation infrastructure, completion of the ultra-modern airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt, establishment of Aviation University, and development of aerotropolis (airport cities).
However, MMS Plus examines some major key areas.
Although some improvements were made in improving the infrastructural standards of the aviation industry, the country’s aviation sector is still far from reaching international standards. The 15 million passenger-capacity terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) was inaugurated under the minister’s administration to enable it assume its leadership position in the aviation sub-sector in Africa.
Within the last four years, federal government embarked on the construction of four new international terminals and two of them have been commissioned last year and that includes the Port Harcourt International Airport Terminal and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja terminal which are functional. However the minister said the Kano, Lagos and Enugu airport would be completed within the year.
Several Instrument Landing System (ILS) have also been installed in various airports across the country by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) with plans to commence installation of CAT II ILS at Maiduguri, Jos and Minna airports in the northern parts of the country. The Kano Tower Automated Air Traffic Management and Meteorological Systems was also completed.
He also reconstructed the Abuja runway as well as the isolated taxiway and apron. The new Abuja international terminal was also linked to the rail station. The installation of solar airfield lighting at 10 airports – Akure, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Yola, Kaduna, Minna, Enugu, Maiduguri, Jos and Ibadan were also done by the minister. He also completed a 1,300-capacity multi-storey car park at the International Terminal in Lagos.
Safety and Security
There has been significant achievement in these areas as there has not been any accident since the minister came on board which has made the flying public rest assured. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority also played a significant role in achieving this feat. The authority ensured that all safety recommendations were implemented and sanctioned defaulters. In December 2018, it sanctioned four operators for violating the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NigCARs). The AIB also made about 147 safety recommendations and in 2017 alone it made 66 recommendations which have been helpful in ensuring more safer skies.
Nigeria also recorded 96 per cent in International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Security Audit in 2016. In the areas of State Safety Programmes, Nigeria has attained Level 3 out of 4, thereby moving Nigeria from red to green on the ICAO dashboard. In line with ICAO and WMO standards, in July, 2017, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency became the first Agency to acquire ISO 9001 2015 certificate, which qualifies it to offer aeronautical and meteorological services.
Enabling environment has also been created for domestic airlines in the country to attain certification in the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Currently, five Nigerian domestic airlines have certification. The certification of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA) Ikeja, Lagos in April, 2017 and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in November, 2017, was a milestone and the first ever airport certification in Nigeria. The certification of the two airports placed Nigeria on the pivotal of aviation on the continent as no country in Africa has two of its international airports certified.
In less than one year, Air Peace has ordered for 40 different brands of aircraft which has taken the country’s aviation industry into limelight. In September 2018, the airline ordered for 10 737 MAX 8 airplanes during a signing ceremony in Lagos in a deal valued at $1.17 billion. Some weeks ago, the airline set a continental record with an order for 30 brand new Embraer 195-E2 aircraft which is worth $2.12billion.
The airline has also ordered for four Boeing 777 aircraft, which would be used for its long-haul operations. Out of the four, three of the aircraft have already been delivered, while the fourth is expected to be delivered soon. Within a space of five years, the airline’s fleet has also grown to a total of 67 air craft. This is a direct benefit of the new policy on commercial aircraft purchase.
Recall that the minister also introduced zero import duties on aircraft, engine and for spare parts as well as the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from all shared transportation, including commercial flights.
The plans to establish the national carrier was not achieved under Sirika’s four years in office. In September 2018, the Federal Government suspended the planned commencement of operations of Nigeria Air. Although no reason was given for the suspension, it was gathered that the national carrier project had been put on hold in the interim.
The Federal Government, through its Ministry of Transportation, the Aviation arm, had announced in July 2018 that Nigeria Air would commence operation before the end of 2018.. However in March 2019, Sirika, disclosed that plans were underway by the Federal Government to revisit the national carrier project. According to him, the ministry only suspended the project to put adequate measures in place, promising that the project would be delivered soon.
Creation of Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) Centre and Avaition Leasing Company
The plans to build an MRO centre failed under the minister. Speaking at the last stakeholders meeting in Abuja last year, the Minister , had explained that many of its programmes for the industry would have been accomplished if there were more time. The Minister noted that the plan to build the maintenance facility and the aviation leasing company was at advanced stage. A source also disclosed to MMS PLUS that these projects were at the procurement stage and have passed the developmental stage.
None of the airports was concessioned as the minister had earlier promised at the beginning of his tenure. However, it has to be noted that aviation unions have not supported the plan to concession the airports by the Federal Government, but despite their campaign against it, Sirika stressed that it would be the solution to infrastructure decay in the sector.
The Aviation Minister, planned to establish an aviation university to promote research, development and production of high level manpower in 2017. However, no effort has been made in this regard since the plan to build the university was disclosed.
Air travelers Satisfaction
Passengers now enjoy better air travel experience as a result of the various measures put in place by the minister to enhance passenger experience.
The installation of new cooling systems, replacement of old conveyor belts at the arrival halls and compliance to the ease-of-doing-business policy of the Federal Government are some of the efforts that were made by Federal Airport Authority Of Nigeria(FAAN) under Sirika’s administration to improve traveling experience for airlines, passengers and other users.
There has also been improvement on lounges at several airports in the country particularly the Lagos airport as well as provision of new facilities, new flight information display and signage .The Authority also reduced the facilitation process for passengers to go through the lounges easily and have enough time to shop and relax before boarding their flights.
However, in terms of airfares, passengers still groan over the high amount of airfares charged by airlines in the country. There is about 100 percent relative increase in local flight fares compared with what Sirika met on ground.
A lot still needs to be done in the country’s aviation sector. Aviation industry stakeholders who had high expectations from the Minister had earlier in the year berated him, for not fulfilling any of the major goals he set out to accomplish in the sector when he was appointed.
The question on the lips of every aviation stakeholder is – should President Buhari appoint Sirika as the Minister of State For Aviation for the second time?