NIGERIA: Covid-19 And Fresh Challenges In Aviation

The aviation industry is one of the critical components of any nation’s industrial advancement.

Internationally, the level of its development, performance and viability is a standard barometer by which investors assess the respective nation’s preparedness and capacity to participate in global business. It is one of the considerations for Foreign Direct Investment. Travel and mobility are key components of the ease-of-doing-business. Most developed economies pay particular attention to aviation development, Nigeria inclusive.

Over the years, Nigeria has strived very hard to develop her aviation sector to ensure viability, sustainability and affordability. Aside from facilities development, there is a need for adequate regulatory environment, competitive operators, safety and passenger convenience.

Among the key government agencies involved in charting the path and sustaining the implementation of world best practice in Nigeria are FAAN, NAMA and NCAA. Many casual stakeholders (especially air travelers) are oblivious of the demarcation of duties and responsibilities among these agencies. This ignorance, incidentally, serves a good purpose of forcing coercion in their activities to the good of the overall performance.

According to its mission statement, the FAAN, which is the key business player of government in this industry, is specifically ‘to develop and profitably manage customer-centric airport facilities for safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world-class standards of quality’ In pursuit of this mission, the Institution must necessarily think Safety First! Next is Regulations, Efficiency, Passenger Comfort, Standards, etc.

It is with this background that this writer is poised to review the One-Year Scorecard of the new FAAN Managing Director, Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu.

Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu is an insider whose immediate past positioning as the Director of Airport Operations (DAO), of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), prepared him in advance for this new responsibility. Among his specifically noticeable personal traits is Meticulousness; Professionalism; Patriotism; Competence; Dexterity; Cognate Experience and Interpersonal Skills. He had previously marshalled the project that led to the Aerodromes Certifications of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, in 2017.

Upon assuming office, Captain Hamisu identified the key areas that would form the focal points of his administration – Human Capacity Creation, Development and Utilization; Infrastructure Upgrade and Maintenance and Improvement in Processes & Procedures.

In the first instance, continuous training/capacity building of staff especially those in the Aviation Security, Fire & Rescue, Operations, Safety and Engineering Departments, has received a new impetus. The big idea is to train the first set of fifty staff up to Instructor Standard. These pioneers will be responsible for cascading the knowledge garnered across the entire staff, in each functional area. This is in recognition of the need to continually bring staff up to date with emerging technologies and best practice, without necessarily expending so much on foreign training.

Another notable achievement is the upgrade of the FAAN Training School at MMIA Lagos to a world-class standard. The School is now an ICAO accredited Aviation Security Training Centre, which is further primed to attaining the ICAO Trainer status. Currently, it is a hosting facility for ACI and ICAO training programs.

Captain Yadudu has taken a lot of steps towards elevating the welfare of Staff in the areas of Medical Care and education of children of Staff as immediate measures. In medical care, the FAAN Hospital at Lagos Airport has been seriously elevated in terms of installation of world-class equipment and service level. The services are rendered free-of-charge to all FAAN Staff and stakeholders. Plans are now underway to replicate this across the FAAN regions nationwide. Medical supplies have also been decentralized to enable the various airports to be more responsive and flexible in attending to the specific needs of staff and other stakeholders.

In terms of education of staff children, Captain Yadudu has set in motion the process for the establishment of university education scholarships for the top five scholars of staff children from each of the federal regions. This is to encourage academic excellence and assist FAAN staff with the burden of child education cost.

In his agenda for improved Safety, Security, Passenger Comfort and Excellent Ambience, a number of coordinated actions are already ongoing. The moribund Central Cooling System at the MMIA has been awarded for refurbishment to the OEMs. Airfield lighting at the Lagos Aerodrome has been upgraded, The Passenger Boarding Bridges at the MMIA have been awarded for revival and upgrade to world Class, while approval has been secured for immediate resurfacing of the taxiway Bravo linking the Domestic and International wings.

Another major milestone is the successful scientific management of the project that led to the dispersal of the threatening colonies of wildlife (especially several species of wild birds). This wildlife had constituted ‘resident hazards” in the critical flight path of aircraft for decades. The success lessons are currently being replicated at appropriate locations across the nation’s aerodromes.

In the area of blocking leakages and loopholes to revenue generation and operational efficiencies, FAAN, under Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu has beamed its searchlight upon the Airport Road Toll Operations, with a view to upscaling the revenue generated from such operations across the country.

In order to ensure three-dimensional feedback and self-priming system, a hotline has also been opened to third parties – Customers, Operators, Regulators and all external stakeholders through which complaints, suggestions, general enquiries etc., can be channelled directly to Captain Yadudu’s Office, thereby taking direct responsibility for remedies and solutions to specific issues raised by stakeholders.  With this new initiative, every Nigerian will be involved in fashioning out the New Nigerian Aviation Industry of our collective dreams!

All these rollercoaster achievements within a year are quite commendable, especially when viewed against the backdrop of what obtains in most governmental agencies in Nigeria as we have come to be used to.

We all must admit that the game-changing challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic took most systems unawares, regardless of the presence or absence of any Business Continuity /Pandemic or Emergency Response Plan. In fact, the acceptable new-normal today is that life will not remain the same. The aviation industry is no exception! This is why FAAN, under the leadership of Captain Yadudu has marshalled out a new Protocol for managing the challenges of COVID-19, in conjunction with all aviation players. This Protocol was designed and harmonized two good months in advance of the planned re-opening of commercial flights! This process has empowered the timely implementation of key components (physical and procedural adjustments).

FAAN has also developed sensitization jingles in English, Pidgin, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo for the benefit of target audiences. These will educate passengers on the new rules in addition to flight announcements every thirty minutes before each operation.

Captain Yadudu has also mandatorily ensured that the entire eight thousand staff strength of FAAN undergoes two key online courses with the World Health Organisation, WHO. These courses, namely Operational Consideration for Managing COVID-19 Cases and Outbreaks in Aviation and COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control will add to the preparedness for a new normal in the aviation industry, before the resumption of regular flight operations.

Like the popular saying, success is a journey. As the days progress, it will be interesting to observe how FAAN manages its successes and possibly scales upon them. Nigeria must be great again!

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