•Labour  Party’ll sack incompetent airport managers –Utomi

By Chinelo Obogo           

Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), an apolitical think-tank, has said that using President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign promises as key performance indicators (KPI), the industry underperformed between 2015-2023. President of the ASRTI, Dr. Gabriel Olowo, in his opening address at the Business Breakfast Meeting which held on Thursday at Ikeja with theme: “Aviation in Nigeria beyond the 2023 General Elections, Challenges and Prospects”, said the future of the Nigerian aviation industry largely depends on how the country deals with the numerous challenges currently impeding its development.

The group which gave an appraisal of the aviation sector in the first quarter of 2022, evaluated the response rate to the topical issues treated in its past meetings from 2015 and the score sheet showed that only six percent of its recommendations were implemented, while 42 percent are a work in progress and 52 percent remained unscratched in eight years.

Among the pending issues, Olowo said the failure to establish some aviation agency boards as stated in the Civil Aviation Authority Act (CAA), violates Section 29: 1 of the Act as contained in Section 11:1 of the 1999 Constitution.

He also queried issues of avoidable negligence in the industry including but not limited to who takes responsibility for the financial losses airlines and service providers incurred during the recent strike that disrupted business activities at the airport? He said questions calling for answers amidst the avoidable negligence includes: “Who takes the responsibility for the financial loses airlines and service providers incurred during the recent strike that disrupted businesses at the airport?

“Poor communication and crisis management exacerbated the strike’s collateral damages. A domestic carrier reportedly lost N500 million due to MM2’s shutdown. We strongly condemn the strike and management’s inadequate response. With apologies, adequate compensation should be provided for all parties affected. Regrettably, if the plan of change is not higher than the pain of remaining the same, people don’t change,” he said. He described some promised projects like the national carrier is at a stillbirth status, while the National Maintenance and Repair Organisation (MRO) is ‘unborn’. He said airport concessioning is inconclusive but the Civil Aviation Authority Act review was successful along with that of the Nigeria Transportation Investigation Board (NTSIB).

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He also drew attention to well celebrated terminals and their unresolved issues stating, ”The New Airport Terminal Building in Lagos commissioned by the President last year has inadequate space at the aircraft apron for parking, ditto one in Abuja obstructing the control tower.

“The light rail line in Abuja does not connect to the airport terminal building either. Were there no plans before these projects were executed? One can only hope the newly commissioned Blue and Red Line Rails in Lagos would share links with the airport terminal buildings,” he said.

In a related development, political economist, Pat Utomi, said that if the Labour Party (LP) is voted into power, it will sack any airport manager that does not measure up to international standards after six months. Utomi who is part of the campaign team of the presidential candidate of the LP, Peter Obi, disclosed this during the ASRTI breakfast meeting, saying that there is no reason why Nigerian airports should not be properly managed to provide common services that meet up to international standards.

“If we get into government, we would fire any airport manager if in six months, the airport he manages does meet standards seen in other parts of the world. What is so difficult about having a toilet that is clean that people can use at our airports? Our politics should be about detailing how things happen and how people should be held accountable if it does not happen. We travel all over the world and come back to see something different. This will no longer be allowed,” Utomi said.

Speaking on some of the plans of the party for the aviation industry, Utomi said the party plans to build many cities in Nigeria and link these cities using intermodal transport systems.  He said there has to be rail systems and small propeller aircraft and airports linked to these hubs, adding that the aviation industry has to be positioned to drive these developments.

“This is no longer the moment for politics of transactions. It is time to redeem the nation. When people know there are consequences for their actions, then they will begin to do the right things,” he said.