Glowing tribute to Captain Paul Mamman Thahal

<Capt. Paul Mamman Thahal was a director and Co-founder of Mission Securities Limited. He is a seasoned Pilot with several years of experience in the aviation industry.

He worked in different capacities in the Nigerian Airways where he became the first Nigerian Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer between 1976/79.

He has flown many Nigerian and African leaders worldwide and won many international honours and award from countries like USSR, Ethiopia, Liberia, Niger, Senegal, and Jamaica just to mention a few.

Thahal is an industrialist, a member and Director of many parastatals and private companies. As the former managing director of the Nigerian Airways, he contributed tremendously to the growth and development of the aviation industry in Nigeria.

Management of Nigerian Airways under Captain Paul Thahall

Let it be on record that the era of Captain P.M. Thahal was when very serious attention was been placed on Nigerianization of the airline’s operation. All the aircraft operated by Nigeria Airways were manned by Nigerians as flight deck crew as well as cabin crew when so required. This era could also be termed as the era of new aircraft purchases. Captain Thahal’s era from 1976 – 1979 could therefore be described as the “golden era” of Nigeria Airways. The aircraft fleet was grown from two Fokker Fellowship 28 and DC-10 to a total of 19 aircrafts out of which fourteen were for domestic operations.

Under the same agreement, Nigeria Airways was granted the right to operate a pool with any other airline outside the corridor between Nigeria and United Kingdom, which includes Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg, Rome and Tripoli. The BOAC was also to place its training facilities at the disposal of Nigeria Airways. Industry observers claim this agreement was of mutual benefit to both parties and it is difficult not to assume that its success has been the foundation of several bilateral negotiations between today’s British Airways and Nigeria Airways.

Still in 1963, Nigeria Airways acquired F.27 Fokker Friendship aircraft from Holland. A compliment of Nigerian indigenous technical skill who went to Holland to acquire operational knowledge on the fleet include Captains Rufus Orimoloye and Bob Hayes (flying) and Fred Quye (engineering), Ofo (operations) among others. While the F.27 fleet boosted domestic service of the airline, a leased VC 10 in particular was flamboyantly ceremonised. The then Minister responsible for aviation, Dr. Kinsley Ozumba Mbadiwe would not be forgotten easily with his “operation fantastic” which was the tag given to a cultural carnival organised by him to showcase Nigeria and the newly acquired aircraft to the world.

The generation of Nigerians who pioneered the indigenization policy in Nigeria Airways included as mentioned earlier, Captain Bob Hayes, Captain Rufus Orimoloye, Captain Godwin Ebeigbe, Captain Sam Ohioma, Captain Paul Thahal, Captain John Obiayon, Captain Dele Ore, Captain Nnachi Nnachi, Captain Toks Williams, Captain Olubunmi Oke, Captain Osakwe, Captain Akintaju , Captain Bara Allwell-Brown, Captain James Udofia, among others in the deck while L.L.T. Lawson, Peters, Adegbesan, Esisi, Bajela, and a host of other vibrant and highly trained hands dominated the engineering department. Adenekan Sandey and Olusanya Akodu topped the pedigree list of a cream of commercial wizards (traffic and cargo) who took over from the expatriates to reposition Nigeria Airways in post independence. The Ekpelles, Ajiduas, Effiongs, Oniyinas, Omokhodions, Osamors, Ngbors, Sobiyes and lots cannot be easily forgotten in the history of Nigeria Airways marketing. In the administration, Oyinlade the company secretary and his deputy, Dalumo, today’s father of the pensioners, the Oshikoyas, octogenarian Pa Adebiyi and lately Maigida (personnel) as well as the Omo-Ikherodia, Sanusi, Frank Iriobe, Waheed Gbajumo (accounts) would ring bell among the pioneer manpower in the national airline.

Besides few of these doyens of the Nigerian aviation history who have passed on, a remarkable number remain in their retired life some still in related businesses. It is unfortunate that up to now, neither this group of pioneer technical or administrative masters nor others following them, all who toiled in peace and war times to develop Nigeria Airways has been nationally recognized and honoured for their invaluable contributions to the progress of civil aviation in Nigeria.

The airline did not stop at acquiring aircraft to augment its fleet alone; it also commenced recruitment and training of manpower to man the outfit. A number of Nigerian pilots, particularly those on B.707 and B.737 as well as F.28 were sent for simulator training at various locations abroad.

By April of 1977, Nigeria Airways was operating a total of 202 flights every week between Lagos, Accra, Robertsfield, Freetown, Banjul and Dakar in West Africa; Lagos, Kano, Rome and London on the Europe route and Lagos, Abidjan, Robertsfield and New York on the American route inclusive of all domestic airports.

During this development plan period, Nigeria Airways had transited from a mere domestic carrier to a regional colossus with a wide range of fleet of aircraft and a mass of skilled technical and administrative juggernauts. As the Federal Government signed Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with friendly countries, so was Nigeria Airways planning scheduled flights to the countries. In October 1977, for instance, the airline inaugurated a commercial flight to Kenya connecting Libreville (Gabon) and Kinshasa (Congo). The following year, May 5 and August 10, 1978, precisely, the airline inaugurated flight services from Lagos to New York via Accra and Robertsfield and from Lagos through Kano to Karachi via Jeddah in Saudi Arabia respectively.

The economic boom experienced by Nigeria as a result of oil wealth, undoubtedly, enhanced the purchasing power of an average Nigerian. This resulted in an unimaginable increase in the number of air transport users. Nigeria Airways being the largest domestic carrier with as many as 26 aircraft and spread to almost all the navigable airports in the country was ahead of private operators.

In 1978, the airline carried 1,444,436 passengers, an average of 3,963 passengers per day. Over 80 percent of this figure represents passengers on domestic route. Passenger traffic for 1979 showed that the airline moved within the domestic sector, 1,308,243 passengers while a total of 213,042 people were flown in and out of international routes during the same period of the year giving a 9.8percent increase over the previous year’s figures.

What the airline gained, however, from this passenger upsurge was also lost through the common tragedy of the society in which it is operating. The wealth of the nation was enormous and the social values of the people eroded. Everybody was a big man and norms were by-passed. Passengers no longer believed in booking for flights. Those who made reservations would not call to cancel if they changed their minds. Confusion set in and boarding and disembarking from flight became chaotic with passengers and airline officials trading words. Corruption reared its head in many forms. Boarding passes became saleable materials with passengers and airline’s officials as market operators.

Notwithstanding the orchestrated noise on the seeming inefficiency in the airline,Captain Thahal’s tenure as chief executive of Nigeria Airways produced a remarkable improvement. Lagos – Benin route, which was most demanding at this period, was eased with an hourly shuttle service to a maximum of 10 flights per day. Flights from Lagos to Yola, Jos, Kaduna and Kano in addition to those of the eastern sector including Enugu, Port Harcourt and Calabar were increased in accordance with the traffic demand.

I’ll get it As far back as 1978, Nigeria Airways had installed computerized monitoring screens at Central Control and the offices of the General Manger and other Operational executives were flights were monitored from moment to moment. This device provided management the channel to ask questions whenever anything was wrong with the day’s schedule. Resultantly, serviceability of the airline’s equipment was improved that delays and outright cancellations of flights were minimally reduced. At that time also, Nigeria Airways introduced courtesy bus service, taking passengers from the airport to the nearest destinations in the city where the passengers could continue their journey, this service was in addition to the tarmac vehicular facilities for disembarking passengers from flight to the terminal building.

The airline’s public relations vis-à-vis regular information to the various customers and other interest of the airline were considerably improved within this period during which the airline also gained a dominant position in flight services between Nigeria and the ECOWAS sub-region with increased capacity offered and utilized on the European and United States of American routes. While the F.27 and F.28 turbine-jet were highly used on domestic services, the B.737 and B.727 alternated as the workhorse on the West Coast route. Both B.707 and DC 10 were alternating international flights for cargo and passengers. At the end of 1978, the airline had made 27,518 flight departures, carrying on its entire network, a total of 1,444,436 passengers that represents a passenger load factor of over 73 percent, the highest traffic figure for the airline since 1959. The airline’s fleet at this period was made of eight F.27, seven F.28, two B.727, three B.737, two B.707 and two DC 10.

It must be on put on record, however that Captain’s Thahal’s era was an era of new aircraft and profitability.

Tribute from WT family

To our Father, Senior Brother and Friend.

The news of your demise came to us like a Bolt! You rose up from the ranks of your colleagues to become the Managing Director of Nigeria Airways in the mid 70’s. This, with your appointment as the managing director, you worked very hard and transformed the Airline which became comparable to other Airlines like Ethiopian Airline in Africa.

You are a man of integrity and also well disciplined. You clocked about 15,000 hours of flight. You were a faithful, dedicated and honest pilot. It was during your tenure as Managing Director that Nigeria Airways experience tremendous growth, with so many fleets of Aircraft.

You built so many Housing Estates for us. Your life and administrative skills was a challenge to us coupled with good governance and good leadership. You were a fatherly figure to all the Aviation staff and the Airline in particular.

The Nigeria Airways Family, mourns her former managing director? chief executive officer, Capt. Paul Mamman Thahal.

The W.T Family has been in deep mourning for our pioneer and much loved former Managing Director since yesterday when the news of your departure hit the family’s news stand. Tributes have been pouring from all over the world, from former staffs of the Airline who were privileged to know you. Our flag has been flying at half-mast in your honour. You are and will always be remembered for your warm and humane leadership style. An epitome of dignity yourself, you treat staffs with respect and fairness irrespective of their status or grade-level. You were a model within the W.T Family and beyond. Sir, you will be sorely missed but we are comforted that your good works and love for Jesus Christ have guaranteed you a place with God in Eternity. Rest in peace from your trials and toils of this world.

Our condolences to your wife, children and entire family. We pray that they be comforted by the Lord God at this difficult time. We love you dearly sir, rest in perfect peace and good night. Nigeria Airways Limited Ex-Workers.

Capt. P.M. Thahal was a father and a brother to all the staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways. He was full of God’s wisdom and virtues, compassionate and kind-hearted.

He was a man of humour, hardly can you find fault with him. If you are close to him, he could share with you some of his secret, if he trust you. He was a true Christian to the core. Walked in the fear and in the righteousness of God. He played a unique role in making sure Ex-Staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways got their entitlements by contributing morally and financially.

Daddy, your memory lingers on in our hearts. Good night sir.

On behalf of Nigeria Airways Ex-Workers,

Capt. Jonathan B. Ibrahim,

Former Managing Director/CEO,

Nigeria Airways.

And

Secretary Nigeria Airways Elders Forum,

Engineer Kyari,

And Mr. Onuh,

Capt. Bob Hayes,

Capt. R.A Orimoloye,

Capt. Dele Ore,

Capt. A. Brown,

Capt. Toks Williams

Capt. Toju Ogisi,

Capt. Tunde Ogunsanwo

Capt. Jaye Adeola

Capt. A. Mohammed and others

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