As new aviation chiefs take over from their predecessors, myriads of gargantuan challenges await them.
Yesterday, President Goodluck Jonathan sacked the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun, his counterpart at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, Mr. Ibrahim Auyo and the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT, Captain Adebayo Araba.
FAAN is now headed by Mr. George Uriesi, an ardent critic of the former MD, who was until his appointment the Director of Operations in FAAN.
The new Managing Director of NAMA is Mr. Nnamdi Udoh, an engineer, who was until his appointment the Director of Engineering and Electronics at NAMA, while NCAT will be headed by the first Nigerian female pilot, Mrs. Chinyere Kalu.
The removal of these men and their replacement by technocrats with cognate experience must usher the aviation industry into a new era of productivity, accountability and innovation, not stagnation as it has been the case in recent years.
At FAAN, the old culture of inefficiency must give way. The tired-and-empty argument that government-run institutions or agencies can never be run efficiently in Nigeria must be jettisoned.
FAAN each year receives billions of naira from the Federal Government for infrastructure development, training and salaries of its staff. It also receives billions of naira from Maevis Nigeria Limited, its revenue generating concessionaire at international airports. Yet, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, the countryâ€™s busiest airport which generates almost 80 percent of revenue for FAAN, has not seen any major improvement in terms of facelift in the last four years.
The Schiphol International airport in Amsterdam which MMIA was modeled after in 1978 when it was built, has witnessed tremendous improvements over the last decades but MMIA and other 20 airports in the country under FAAN have continued to degenerate to an abysmal level.
The lingering crises between FAAN and Maevis Nigeria Limited, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services and other concessionaires have also contributed to the slow pace of development in the industry. It does not have to be that way.
At the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, the only school of aviation in Nigeria was allowed to rot for many years. Some years ago, a tour of the institution left one bewildered. For instance, the hangar, built in the 1960s, was the only one for aircraft maintenance. The second one built with several millions of naira years after to replace the decaying hangar was never completed and was abandoned. The simulators, necessary to train pilots, were either not functional or partially in use. The college was neglected so much that there was no expansion and the local community started encroaching on their land. This must stop.
At NAMA, there was a sense of vacuum in terms of leadership. On 25 July, it was Harold Demuren, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, who unveiled a roadmap for satellite navigation in the countryâ€™s airspace known as PBN.
Satellite-based navigation boosts efficiency in aircraft trajectory and increases airspace capacity. It also enables reduction in aircraft fuel consumption, improves air safety and eliminates flight delays and cancellations.
Nigeriaâ€™s airspace is under the supervision of NAMA, but the project was stalled for close to a decade until Demuren stepped in and began work. NAMA was rudderless. This must not be allowed to continue.
While we welcome a change in leadership in the aviation industry, we call on the new aviation chiefs to sit up and usher the industry into a new era of development and prosperity. What they do today, will determine their legacy.