Aviation industry stakeholders and members of organised labour have kicked against the planned merger recommended in the Oronsaye Report, which recommended that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) should merge with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to become Federal Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA).
The stakeholders faulted the recommendation on the grounds that it does not dovetail with the regulation of the International Civil Aviation Organsiation (ICAO), which canvasses that the regulatory agency, NCAA should be autonomous so that it would be insulated from the encumbrances of service providers, which it is established to regulate their activities.
The federal government recently announced plan to implement recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring of Government Agencies and Commissions, known as Oronsaye Report.
The committee submitted its whitepaper to the government in 2014, but the then government could not implement the recommendations before it left office.
The committee also recommended that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) be privatised, but the government rejected this, citing the security situation in the country.
The committee further mentioned the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) in its report and issued various recommendations on them.
Last week, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the implementation of the Oronsaye Report, which further recommended the abolition of 38 federal agencies, merger of 52, and the reversion of 14 agencies to departments in relevant ministries, which signified its implementation any moment soon.
However, in the aviation industry, stakeholders said the merger recommended by the report would bring confusion and run counter to ICAO rules in addition to attendant job losses.
Industry consultant and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe said the federal government cannot merge a regulatory body with service providing agencies. He recalled that sometime in the past what is known as NAMA and FAAN today merged and the result was high accident record, which prompted government to separate the two agencies.
Aligbe, said that NIMET cannot be merged with other aviation agencies because besides providing weather report to air transport, it also services other sectors of the economy, including maritime, agriculture and environment
“Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) cannot be merged with other agencies; rather, there is already plan to expand the Bureau into a multimodal accident investigation agency to include road and maritime. AIB was merged in the past but all of us knew the consequences, series of tragic accidents.
“I don’t think the merger will be successful in the aviation industry. There is already plan to concession the airports. That will remove the burden from government,” Aligbe said.
Former Managing Director of NAMA, Nnamdi Udo, warned that if airspace management is subsumed, especially air traffic control, it would give rise to inefficiency that might compromise air safety. He remarked that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is all encompassing, but air traffic control is under a chief executive.
“If you merge FAAN and NAMA it will be like the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), but air traffic control will be made a specialised service unit, but this will be unlikely marriage because it may not be successful.
“FAAN already has huge burden on its head and it would continue to be sluggish until it is unburdened. Merger goes with loss of jobs. How many people in NAMA and FAAN are resourceful and skilled manpower?” he said.
However, the President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ben Nnabue told THISDAY that the possibility of merger of aviation agencies was remote, especially NCAA, “which is completely impossible to merge with any other agency for the singular reason that the Authority is aviation’s regulatory body
“Any attempt to merge services providing agencies with the NCAA would amount to the regulator regulating itself which would make mockery of objectivity as a cardinal principle in regulation.
“Besides, it raises the possibility of appointment of persons of doubtable personnel in charge of regulation considering that other proficiencies would compete for such appointment on the basis of multiple services on offer.
“Most importantly, Nigeria will risk becoming a pariah aviation state and most likely lose all global certifications earlier obtained on the basis of falling short of ICAO specifications on independence and objectivity standards expected of a state regulatory body. All thoughts of merging the NCAA with any other aviation agency must simply be buried unless the promoters of such ideas wish to precipitate an earth shaking crisis in Nigeria’s aviation industry,” he said.
Nnabue added that any plan to merge NiMet with any aviation agency cannot stand because NiMet services is beyond aviation, agriculture, military, others.