Stories by ISAAC TERSOO AGBER
IT is no longer business as usual in Nigeria’s aviation sector as the former bustling ministry has been reduced to a subsidiary under the ministry of transport. The industry came under serious scrutiny at the height of allegations of corrupt practices traced to the past administration of Goodluck Jonathan. And currently, there is a looming uncertainty that pervades all the agencies regarding what the newly appointed Honorable Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and the Minister of Sates on Aviation, Hadi Sirika, have in stock for the industry.
As for Hadi, it looks like a dream come true, reading through his profile. As a trained pilot and one time member of the Senate Committee on Aviation during the Jonathan administration, the industry will now have an aviator with the requisite experience to steer its affairs. No doubt, that is the expectation of some stakeholders even though one can still argue that not all experts can be good administrators.
The first hurdle Hadi will like encounter is discrepancy in funding. Now that the ministry is subjected under transport, budgetary allocations will be channeled to the parent ministry. And except there are no bottlenecks between the two to breach gaps and fast-track disbursement, execution of projects will be slowed, if not stalled.
Secondly, as a trained pilot, Hadi is supposedly used to the heck of navigating through a turbulent airspace. But that can never be compared with administering an industry that is fast falling apart with policy defaults, political influence, poor infrastructure and technical ineptitude. He must be able to identify these challenges stunting growth of the sector before marshaling an aggressive remedy.
He must be aware that what the industry needs now is a total overhaul across board in order to overturn its fortunes in revenue generation. This can never be possible without blocking existing leakages.
Reports have indicated that Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) stands at N80.3 trillion; that is equivalent to $509.9 billion. Surprisingly, aviation only contributes $0.7bn or 0.4 per cent to the GDP, though it has potentials to contribute in excess of 5 per cent to the GDP and support in excess of one million jobs by 2030, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The task ahead of Hadi is to create an investor-friendly environment, not the type that will leave the doors freely open for expatriates to continue dominating the industry, but one that will develop the indigenous carriers and block multiple entries from the foreign airlines in order to tame capital flight. By so doing, the projection of IATA will be achieved with a plus, given the size of the nation’s population and the ever increasing passenger traffic.
But of course, to get the best of investors, you must have world class airports, if not hubs. With the lingering news making the rounds about world’s worst airport in Nigeria, there are slim chances to attract credible investors. Two examples of good investors the industry should be proud of are: Bi-Courtney, concessionaire of the MMA2 and Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL).
The industry has been without a maintenance facility from inception. The airline operators have been trying hard to break even as they spend huge sums on regular checks overseas. Having one of such facilities in the country will do a lot to salvage the situation. The two ministers must make this a priority.
The odds are too many to mention here, but the expectation of Nigerians and stakeholders in the industry is that an expert is coming to navigate the industry to its desire destination.