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Our Target Is For Aviation To Contribute 5% To GDP – NCAA DG

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Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Capt. Musa Nuhu has said despite the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in 2020, the domestic air transport market recovered quicker than expected.

In an interview with daily trust he noted the following: Excerpt:

What is your assessment of the aviation industry in 2021 and expectations in 2022?

I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the domestic aviation industry. We certainly have recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Not that we have recovered from the COVID-19 level, we have passed the pre-COVID-19 level. If you see the airlines from Nigeria, they have been getting clients.

Right now, I have about 10 to 12 aircraft on wet-lease to fill in the gap of the demands of the system.

So, the industry has done fairly well. The domestic industry is growing at a fantabulous rate. We have given a lot of Air Operators’ Certificates (AOCs) and we still have about 15 in the pipeline. We are working on it.

We have airports propping up all over the place and a lot of maintenance organisations coming up.

For us to achieve the growth we have now, we (agencies, ministries, stakeholders and the media) be doing something right that is building investors’ confidence in the system.

The investors are willing to put their money into the system and grow the industry.We will continue that way and hopefully, we want to get to a place where aviation pays very significant contributions to the GDP on short and medium terms; at least 5 per cent.

Also, the growth is stretching the infrastructure. So, sometimes, clogs are created here and there because the system has been stretched.

What has been the level of compliance with COVID-19 protocol?

Generally, globally, people are getting COVID-19 fatigue. If you go out, you see a lot of people not wearing their facemasks, except in airports, airlines and other places where we keep educating people that COVID-19 is real and it’s growing into various variants. It is something we just have to consistently do and ensure compliance with.

What is NCAA doing on the issue of the declining rate of technical staff, like inspectors, in the system?

On the issue of inspectors for NCAA, we are working with the supervising Ministry of Aviation to see what we can do. We are seeking approval to employ more technical staff, which we have to do. This is the government, there are due administrative processes which we must comply with. Even if you are doing the right thing, there are due processes you must follow. We are working on it and we are making significant progress.

Apart from the ministry and the minister that are supporting us, the aviation committees of the National Assembly through their chairmen are supporting us. We have explained to them the challenges and the difficulties we are facing and they too have been assisting us in a way through legislative action to help us resolve some of the challenges we are facing. We are a government organisation and we must comply with the Public Service Rules in all we do.

Also, some of our ICAO standards and recommended practices documents say “NCAA must be a competitive employer.”

What that is saying is that the salaries we pay our workers must be competitive in the industry. We are a government organisation and the industry is privately run. So, you can understand how our hands are tied. But we try to see how we can work within the confines of the laws to close that gap so that we can attract more personnel to come and work with us.

What is the justification for the new safety threshold handling rates taking place next month?

The issue of the handling rates was justified because for over 30 years, the handling rates were not adjusted. Imagine, these ground handlers, import a lot of their equipment using foreign exchange, just like the airlines use foreign exchange to procure their machines. So, what affects the airlines, directly affects these ground handlers and the ground handlers are a critical component for the success of the industry. So, we sat down, compared what we charge here with that of the other countries, but because of the devaluation of the naira and the non-increase of ground handling over the years, the increase looked very high. So, the airlines complained.

Then, we mediated in the issue; listened to their complaints and reduced the new rates by 25 per cent. We did this so that we don’t shock the system, but we can gradually fully increase. I just read something this morning that the ground handlers have come together and know that the competition is detrimental. So, they are working together now.I think if the ground handlers can work together, they should be able to implement the new rates. The handlers were undercutting themselves in the past.

Some Nigerians recently had issues with Asky Airlines at Lome, Togo, what actually went wrong?

The security agencies in Togo maltreated some of the Nigerian travellers who were stranded in that country, but before then, they alleged that the travellers entered the restricted areas at the airport. The airline has written us a letter, apologizing to us that it will not happen again. So, we are just following up for them to sort things out. We are trying to sort out things. I am still talking with the CAA of Togo.

The DG is a good friend of mine. We just lodged our complaints officially so that the records will be there, but the airline has apologised. Whatever it is, we will be able to resolve it amicably.

Our apologies to the Nigerian passengers who were maltreated.