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ASRTI Advocates for Autonomy in Nigerian Aviation Agencies

By Patience Chat Moses

The Aviation initiative has urged the federal government to restore and safeguard the autonomy of Nigerian aviation agencies, particularly the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

This call was made during the group’s second quarter 2023 brunch business meeting, where members emphasized the importance of independence for the NCAA in carrying out its duties and functions.

The Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) has remained a platform where consistent advocacy for the autonomy of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in line with the Act establishing it and global best practices.

According to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, 2022, Part 2, Section 4(3), NCAA is expected to be independent in the discharge of its duties and functions, and should not take directives from any person or authority except as provided under the Act.

However, the Agency has been accused of surrendering its autonomy to the Ministry of Aviation, contrary to the provisions of the law.

The Aviation Roundtable (ART) President, Air Commodore Ademola Onitiju who said this in his welcome address at the Breakfast meeting of the group emphasized that this is to ensure it is adequately insulated from short-term political pressure.

He said in the Nigerian circumstances, NCAA is expected to be both benign and harsh in its spontaneous enforcement of standards and rules to retain our trust.

“We have advocated times without number, the importance of constituting governing boards for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and other aviation agencies in the Nigerian aviation sector.“

These boards, he noted will not only assist the Director Generals  and other Chief Executive Officers in formulating enduring policies for the agencies but will also serve as the barometer for ensuring the good corporate governance practice of transparency, accountability and responsibility which will cascade down to all segments in the sector.

“Corruptive tendencies often associated with political interference will be appropriately checkmated and curbed by a focused and knowledgeable board. We urge the Minister of Aviation to do the needful.”

Chairman of King Airlines, Senator Musa Adede, lamented that NCAA has delegated its powers to the Ministry, hindering its ability to effectively regulate the industry. He emphasized that NCAA must reclaim its autonomy to drive growth in the Nigerian aviation sector.

ASRTI also called for the rapid enhancement of NCAA’s regulatory obligations through digitalization and automation of its safety and economic regulatory processes.

This aligns with global trends and best practices, ensuring the entire aviation ecosystem is cyber-safe and secure. The group’s position is that autonomy is non-negotiable and should be guarded, enabling the NCAA to effectively carry out its duties without interference. This step is sure to encourage investment and promote growth in the aviation industry.

Earlier in May, ASRTI had shown its commitment to the autonomy of NCCA when it denounced and condemned the interference the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyemo in NCAA’s functions and activities.

This was after Keyemo suspended Dana Airlines’ entire operations after which ASRTI asserted that such interference undermines the core principles of the NCAA’s autonomy and poses serious risks to aviation safety and security. ASRTI views them as violations of crucial laws and processes, essential for upholding NCAA’s autonomy in Nigeria.

The General Secretary of ASRTI, Olumide Ohunayo emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “ASRTI condemns external interference by the Minister’s directive, eroding autonomy and jeopardizing aviation safety in Nigeria’s aviation sector.  “We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the non-negotiable autonomy of the NCAA as outlined in Section 4(3) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act”, he noted.

Furthermore, ASRTI stressed that financial audit of airlines and decisions regarding appropriate sanctions for violations fall solely within the purview of NCAA, not external authorities.

While condemning Minister Keyamo’s action, it demanded an immediate reversal of Dana Airlines’ suspension and an official apology to the entire aviation community. Simultaneously, ASRTI urged NCAA and Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NISB) to continue investigations into the MD-82 aircraft and Dana Airlines, emphasizing uninterrupted due process. It urged the Minister to prioritize policies benefiting the airline industry, enabling independent operations for agencies like FAAN.

Ohunayo called for swift appointments to agency boards to ensure seamless operations and proper governance.

In a commendatory note, ASRTI commended NCAA for suspending three non-scheduled operators due to operational infractions and urged transparency by publicly disclosing the list of affected airlines.

In summary, ASRTI’s resolute stance emphasizes the critical need to safeguard the autonomy of regulatory bodies like NCAA, while noting that decisions impacting aviation safety should adhere to established protocols and legal frameworks, free from external influences.

Industry observers say ASRTI’s call for autonomy for Nigerian aviation agencies, particularly NCAA, is a step in the right direction, as it is essential to ensure that the agency operates independently, free from interference, to drive growth and development in the sector.

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