Aviation reform: Speaker, minister decry low turnout of private sector players at public hearing

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday met behind closed doors with Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, at the State House, Abuja.

The House of Representatives has expressed concern over low private sector participation in a public hearing on efforts by the federal government to reform the aviation sector in Nigeria.

The House on Tuesday began the three-day public hearing on six Executive Bills to reposition the aviation sector for better service delivery.

They are the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) bill, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) bill, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NCAA) bill, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) bill and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) bill.

Declaring the hearing open, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, decried the low turnout of private sector players at the hearing.

He said that the essence of the hearing was to avail stakeholders and members of the public an opportunity to contribute to the bills, adding that it was a time for private sector players to make their positions known.

“The whole idea of public hearing is for people, interested parties to be present to contribute whatever observations they have.

“At the end of the public hearing, it is common for stakeholders from the private sector that did not show up for the public hearing, to begin to complain when the bill is passed.

“As you can see, not a single person from the private sector is here; there is a need for the private sector to be at public hearings, when a bill is passed it may be too late to do anything,” he said.

Also, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said that the ministry and stakeholders had discussed the bills in the last five years.

Sirika said that the draft bills were made available to the stakeholders seven months before now.

According to Sirika, the ministry received some comments from the stakeholders on the draft bill, wondering why they were not at the hearing.

He recalled that private sector representatives were in the Senate a couple of weeks ago for the hearing, expressing concern that they were completely absent at the House of Representatives.

The minister said that the journey to amend the laws establishing agencies under the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority began as a result of issues raised in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) in 2006.

He said that the report by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category Certification Audit in 2010 also necessitated the Establishment Acts for some aviation service providers.

“It became necessary for the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to be the only and autonomous regulator of Civil Aviation in Nigeria. Thus, Nigeria was requested and agreed to take corrective action to address the audit findings.

“Consequently, a committee involving the relevant stakeholders was constituted by me to review the Establishment Acts of the six Aviation Agencies, not only to close the audit findings.

“This is to be done by removing regulatory powers from service provider agencies and also to bring the respective Ads up to date with development in International Civil Aviation.

“Other reviews are to separate powers among the agencies, facilitate the upgrade of NCAT to degree awarding institution, give NIMET the leverage to commercialise some of its products, and remove impediments in the smooth running of the functions of all the agencies.

“The committee is also to ensure seamless coexistence between the agencies and also to encourage the agencies to initiate avenue of generating revenue,” he said.

Sirika said after a series of meetings and deliberations, the six draft bills were produced, cleared by the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Federal Executive Council before their transmission to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Committee, Nnolim Nnaji, said that in recognition of the importance of the aviation sector, the House had considered the executive bills and referred the same to the committee for further legislative action.

Nnaji said that the acts need to be repealed and re-enacted to meet contemporary demands and international standards for the general development of the aviation sector.

“It is pertinent to note that since the last review of these agencies, significant changes and developments have taken place in the aviation industry which necessitates the review and amendment of these Acts.

“This is to bring them up to date with the operational requirements and dictates of the industry.

“Furtherance to that, there is a compelling need to align the sector with the international best practices as outlined in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) guidelines.

“I wish to reiterate the committee’s continued commitment to ensure that the sector remains one of the best through appropriate legislation and oversight.

“So that at the end of the day, we will have succeeded in bequeathing to Nigerians an air industry that is properly regulated and better managed for greater efficiency,” he said.

The committee chairman noted that aviation is a dynamic industry and requires constant review of the statutes to keep pace with its obtainable standards.

Nnaji added that the importance of the sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and revenue generation could not be overemphasised.

He said that the committee would collaborate with relevant agencies to ensure that appropriate avenues were created for the industry’s economic development.

The President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, raised concerns over the nomenclature of FAAN.

“We are talking best international standards but I do not know why we want to remove the word “Authority” there.

“We cannot have a Nigerian standard in the aviation sector we must use nomenclatures that are known globally.

“I think we should replace authority with administration which will make the institution more accountable.

“With this, we will support the bills,” Wabba said.

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