As the National Assembly begins the review of Civil Aviation Act 2006, aviation stakeholders have urged lawmakers to prioritise the autonomy of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to revive the sector.
The apex regulatory body, according to the professionals, is in a better position to pilot the affairs of the sector; enforce safety and economic regulations of airlines and organisations, but without political interference.
The stakeholders also enjoined the National Assembly to ensure the Civil Aviation Act retains the five per cent Ticket Sales Charge/Cargo Sales Charge (TSC/CSC), which was the main source of NCAA’s revenue.
The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation has commenced the amendment of the Civil Aviation Acts 2006, with a pending three-day public hearing on the six Executive Bills brought to the National Assembly.
The Bills seek to amend certain aspects of the Acts establishing the six agencies being superintended by the Ministry of Aviation. The agencies include, The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). Others are the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) Zaria, Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), and Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET).
Aviation analyst, Ifeanyi Ogochukwu, said strengthening the NCAA economic regulation is important to the growth of the local sector.
Ogochukwu, a licensed Air Traffic Safety Electronics specialist, told journalists the regulatory agency should be empowered to effectively carry out oversight functions of the entire industry, most importantly the charter operators.
He warned that any attempt to weaken the power of the regulatory agency might spell doom for the industry, adding that aviation is internationally-regulated, with standards.
“NCAA should have more powers to regulate charter services in the Act. A lot of people in government are using charter services to do some shady businesses in the industry. The 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. The NCAA is not really enforcing compliance in these agencies, but the new bill before the National Assembly should address this.
“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,” Ogochukwu said.
Director, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS), Prof. Anthony Kila, said the NCAA is a critical agency in the sector and should be empowered to discharge its duties without interference.
Kila sought a new NCAA that is customer-centric, flexible and one that works in harmony with airlines and other organisations in the sector.
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. 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 insurance 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 is to discuss, deliberate and consult 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 five 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 globally. 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 with Saudi Arabia.”