The Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo has promised that he won’t interfere in the operations of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), stressing that aviation safety is completely in the hands of the aviation regulatory body.
The Minister who spoke at the inspection of facilities at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos said, “There should be very little political interference in safety matters. Don’t expect me to interfere in safety matters.
“That is completely in the hands of the NCAA and they are totally responsible and answerable to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). I am not going to interfere with safety. One of my cardinal programmes should just be to ensure that NCAA enforces its rules and regulations to the hilt; that is my duty. I will not interfere in matters of regulations.”
The statement by the Minister may have rekindled the hope of better air safety as successive ministers had been accused of interfering in the operations of the NCAA.
The government’s persistent interference in the operations of the industry regulator, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has been identified as contributing significantly to the growth of the sector and posing a threat to the security and safety of airlines and airports across the country.
Aviation Metric checks show that the law set up by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, (ICAO) which Nigeria is a party to, states that all Civil Aviation Authorities under ICAO across the world must exercise autonomy and must not be influenced by the presidency or its minister.
However, experts say that the reverse has been the case in Nigeria, even after the NCAA was made autonomous in 2006, thereby putting a restraint on the decisions of the regulator.
“The NCAA is supposed to be able to correct government when they are at fault but because of political alliances, government tends to favour certain airline operators over others or favour certain countries which do not have the interest of Nigeria at heart”, says an aviation expert who preferred anonymity.
He recalled that in 2006, an engineer did a spot check on an aircraft and he found out that the aircraft was not fit to fly. The owner of the aircraft objected to the grounding of the aircraft and the minister spoke to the NCAA to allow the aircraft to operate.
He disclosed that because of the pressure on the director-general of the NCAA at that time, the engineer in charge had to resign.
Tayo Ojuri, an industry expert and Chief Executive Officer, of Aglo Limited, an aviation support service, told our correspondent that most times, the NCAA is not able to follow through on its policy positions because the minister of aviation is right on the neck of the director-general, from one administration to the other.