Professionals in the aviation sector have tasked the National Assembly members to promulgate laws that will strengthen the oversight functions of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA).
This is coming just as the National Assembly is set to review the Civil Aviation Act 2006 before it.
The players in the sector said that while the regulatory agency has performed well to improve safety in the industry in the past years, the current Civil Aviation Act 2006 did not really empower it to enforce the economic regulations of the industry especially on the airlines and organisations in the sector.
The stakeholders also canvassed for real autonomy for NCAA, saying that political interference was hindering its progress and performance.
The players equally enjoined the National Assembly to ensure the retention of the 5 per cent Ticket Sales Charge/Cargo Sales Charge (TSC/CSC), which was the main source of NCAA revenue before some of the agencies were included in the sharing formular be retained and if possible improved upon so that the agency could remain strong and virile.
Commenting on the issue, Engr. Ifeanyi Ogochukwu, aviation analyst, the strengthening of economic regulation of NCAA was key to the growth of the sector in Nigeria.
Ogochukwu, a licensed Air Traffic Safety Electronics Specialist in an interview with Daily Independent said that the regulatory agency should be empowered more to effectively carry out oversight functions of the entire industry, most importantly the charter operators.
Ogochukwu, a former management staff of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), warned that any attempt to weaken the power of the regulatory agency may spell doom for the industry, maintaining that aviation is internationally regulated with standards.
According to him: “The economic regulation is key for NCAA to continue to discharge its duties in the sector. NCAA must have the authority to enforce and implement compliance of economic regulation of the industry. It is obvious that most of the airlines don’t have a bigger plan, people have money, they go into the business and start running an airline without structure, business plan and of course, it is bound to fail.
“Also, NCAA should have more power to regulate charter services in the Act. A lot of people in government are using charter services to do some shady business in the industry. NCAA should have the regulatory authority to effectively regulate the charter services.
“NCAA should be empowered to carry our economic regulation of the agencies apart from the airlines, ground handlers and other organisations in the sector. NCAA is not really enforcing compliance in these agencies, but the new bill before the National Assembly should address this.”
Besides, he stated that the 5 per cent TSC/CSC collected on behalf of the other agencies by NCAA should be retained by the National Assembly in the impending public hearing by the National Assembly, stressing that training and retraining of technical staff in the agency was paramount.
Besides, he condemned political interference in the regulation of NCAA, noting that its autonomy had been on paper.
“It is very essential and critical for NCAA to be autonomous. It should not be autonomous on paper. NCAA should be able to call minister’s bluff and tell him, ‘sorry’ on some issues based on its Act. A fully autonomous NCAA can perform its functions without interference even from the presidency. It is only then that the industry will be stronger and be more respected.
“An aspect of the Act should say that ‘In case of political interference and anything happens, the minister will be held liable.’ It should be there by law. Once this is done, it will be absolutely impossible for the minister to interfere because he knows once he does that, it is a criminal offence and can be held liable.”
In his contribution also, Prof. Anthony Kila, director, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS) said that NCAA as a critical agency in the sector should be empowered to discharge its duties without interference.
He wanted a new NCAA that is customer-centric, flexible and one that works in harmony with airlines and other organisations in the sector, adding that its economic regulation should be more potent with the new Act.
He said: “For the economic regulation, the essence of this is to make sure that customers are not stranded, no matter who runs the airlines. The reason they should be sound economically and safe technically is to make sure our sky is safe.
“So therefore, a good economic regulation should not be the one that will make life unnecessarily difficult, but work with them to ensure that it is sustained. That means you have to look at the cost of insurances for airlines, regime of paying for landing and parking for airlines.
“Overall, the new NCAA should be passenger-centric. If anyone can understand that the reason they are on that table to discuss, deliberate and consult is purely to make life easier, safer and more reliable for the passengers. That is the way we can get there.”
Like Ogochukwu, he canvassed for the retention of the 5 per cent TSC/CSC for the agency and others in the sector, stressing that they required revenues to sustain safety in the system.
He explained that most of the NCAA charges are recognised internationally, noting that rather than reducing the powers of the regulatory body, its powers should be strengthened to boost safety.
“Government needs revenues to sustain itself. We should understand that nobody pays happily, but it is a necessity to pay those charges. Don’t forget that our industry is an international sector that the fees are not just made locally, but they have to reflect around the world.
“When you look at what happens around the world, you should also look at the cost of operations for the airlines so that we don’t end up comparing Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.”
Besides, a stakeholder who didn’t want his name in print said it was high time the functions of NCAA were strengthened by the National Assembly with the new Act so that it could be stronger, more virile and be able to pursuit its oversight mandate more than ever before.
The anonymous stakeholder recalled that during the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, NCAA was the first Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Africa to formulate Advisory Circular on safety, aircraft maintenance, health protocols for the Industry, even ahead of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
He said this attracted written commendations from Air Cdre Kwame Mamphey, President, African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC).
The National Assembly will begin the process of amending the Civil Aviation Act 2006 with a three-day public hearing on the six Executive Bills brought to it on October 20 to 22, 2020.
The bills are seeking to amend certain aspects of the Acts establishing the six agencies being superintended by the Ministry of Aviation.