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Setting agenda for Usman as NCAA’s boss

After his confirmation as Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority [NCAA] on the 31st of October, 2014, Capt Muhtar Usman has his work cut out for him and should do well to avoid the pits and financial mess that had pervaded the office in the past. ANTHONY OMOH x-rays the task ahead of the new NCAA’s DG

After seven months in hiatus, Capt Muhtar Usman assumed office as Director General/Chief Executive Officer (DG) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority [NCAA] on the 31st of October, 2014 in Lagos with a declaration that his administration would focus on Safety, Security and Comfort in the conduct of flight operations in and out of Nigerian airspace in line with the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
This is his take, but to put all he said in place he needs focus and commitment especially in an industry rife with too much politics, case in point: the road to his appointment
President Jonathan had on March 5, 2014 through a letter signed by the Special Assistant, Media, to the Secretary to the Federal Government; Mr. Sam Nwaobasi, sacked the CEOs in four of the aviation agencies including the then NCAA head, Captain Fola Akinuotu.
Usman was redeployed from the Accident Investigation Bureau to the NCAA, but required the approval of the Senate for him to resume to his new duty post. However, it took months after his appointment, for his confirmation by the Senate.
During his time in the flanks waiting for confirmation, stakeholders and professionals in the Nigerian aviation stated that the failure of the Senate to invite Usman for screening is a reminiscent of what the immediate former Director-General of the agency went through about a year ago.
What Usman must avoid:
Akinkuotu  former DG was booted out  and he was supposed to be the Director-General of NCAA for five years in the first period, which is renewable by another term.
However, within the period, Mr. Joyce Nkemakolam, was acting DG in the agency, but within that time, several scams took place in the agency, which brought the integrity of the agency and the ministry of aviation into disrepute.
For instance, within the period of the vacuum, there was a BMW bulletproof cars scandal, which rocked the sector within the period. Nkemakolam had signed for the purchase of two bulletproof BMW 7series to Oduah in August at purportedly hyper inflated prices of N255m.
Challenges Usman must surpass:
Players in the country’s aviation industry are still of the opinion that these are the sort of issues that captain Usman as DG  should look out for and avoid so as to move the industry and improve the regulatory function
Stakeholders also feel that they have a professional in the position of DG and all that is left is for him to perform and take the industry to a greater standard without bringing it to disrepute.
They have urged him to ensure that airline operators complied with the safety of their passengers and aircraft.
“The NCAA must enforce safety and security compliance by both commercial and privately owned and managed aircraft, to enhance and promote national interest “, he said.
Capt Usman while resuming office was full of commendation for the management and staff of the Authority for the hard work he said must have been put in for the retention of the American Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] International Aviation Safety Assessment [IASA] Category One. This has qualified Nigerian Registered Aircraft from flying directly to the Continental United States.
However, this is a feat he must strive to sustain with carefully planned programmes to ensure that the country does not go down even as he starts to prepare for the ICAO certification which the groundwork has already been put in place.
The new Director General also solicited for the support and co operation of all the staffers of the Authority for the achievement of his three point Agenda, Safety, Security and Comfort in the conduct of flight operations in and out of Nigerian airspace.
In achieving this, he said he would be guided by Annexes of the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO], the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations [NCARs] and other appropriate legislations and conventions in line with international standard.
However, a task is to allow for his independence of the regulatory body to carry out its oversight function effectively, advising that there should be no interference as advocated by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Other areas the NCAA needs to look at are the major challenge facing the airline industry, especially the local operators,  as the problem of ageing aircraft without adequate and on time maintenance is an issue, the regulatory body needs to ensure safer skies by monitoring airlines and making sure corners are not cut.
Then there is the cost of aircraft leasing/financing, cost of insurance and these are areas that have made Nigerian carriers uncompetitive, sucking away areas where little profit can be made since most insurers term Nigeria as an accident prone airspace whether true or not increase the premium paid by these airlines  which is not fair to them.
Most importantly, the high cost of Jet-A1 that has remained unabated for many years as it covers about 30 % in the rest of the world while in  Nigeria and oil producing state Jet A1 is almost getting to 45% the total operation cost.
Another area where the Captain Muhtar should be concerned with is canvassing support and patronage for Nigerian airlines to help them grow.
Most of the mega carriers flying in and out of Nigeria are filled up with Nigerian passengers, prompting the question why are Nigerians not patronising their own, the new DG needs to do something to encourage Nigerians to fly their own and create employment in the industry for Nigerians.
Although these are the recurring challenges in the industry, it is important now that the country is looking at the aviation sector to improve him.President of Air Transport Senior Staff Services  OF Nigeria (ATSSSAN) Benjamin Okewu said, “We were not happy before now that the head of the number one regulatory body in the aviation industry has been in an acting position.
“Now, we can have decisions taken that would move the industry forward.
“Before now, the man at the head of the agency was in an acting position and there was a limitation to the decisions he could take, “he said.
Okewu added that the NCAA has regained its autonomy with the confirmation of the appointment of its substantive DG.
He said that the NCAA was the number one policeman– in terms of safety and security in the aviation industry– and the new DG should ensure safety of aircraft and passengers.
“So, the area I would expect him to look into is the area of safety issue regarding the aircraft being airworthy.
“Also, the staff of the agency need to be trained and re-trained as was being done under the past leadership, so that they can be above board in terms of their oversight functions, “he said.
During hand over, former Acting Director General and Director Airworthiness Standards [DAWS] Engr Benedict Adeyileka introduced the management staffers present and handed over prepared notes detailing the activities of the Authority to the new DG.
He explained that the handover notes listed all the Directorates and their activities, Various Committees that have been raised and their job functions, Operating Airlines and their major routes, List of Airline Operating Certificate {AOC} holders, List of AOCs issued within his acting period.
The handover notes also contained a brief on the Authority preparation ahead of the upcoming ICAO audit to which there is no date yet. The good news, he said was that NCAA is in full compliance in all ICAO critical elements, except in two areas that he said we would need to be buckled up.
Engr Adeyileka  also touched on all the challenges confronting the Authority in areas of being able to retained skilled and qualified staff in sufficient numbers, indebtedness to the Authority by Airlines, shortage of accommodation for staff, Shortage of funds for training and the ongoing efforts to review the subsisting Service Charge.
Apart from pledging his readiness to shed more light as may be required on all issues, the Director of Airworthiness however pledged the loyalty and support by all staff of the Authority and wishes him a successful tenure.
Capt Usman’s aviation career dates back to 1981 at the College of Aviation Technology[NCAT], Zaria in Kaduna State, where as a flying instructor, he was involved in the  training of students pilots from basics to attain commercial pilot license, multi engine and instrument ratings.
He had a Diploma in Aeronautical Electronics and Telecommunication and a City and Guilds certificate in Radio, Television, Electronics and Telecommunications.
The new DG/CEO later bagged his qualification as a Commercial Pilot with multi engine and Instrument ratings from Burnside – Ott Aviation Training Centre, Miami, United States of America in 1978.
Besides, he also qualified as a Boeing 727 Flight Engineer in Miami in 1980,and capped with a Flying Instructor s’ rating at Oxford  Air Training School, United Kingdom in 1982.
He is currently a B737 pilot and has acquired over 8000 hours in his professional career.
Capt Usman, who until the current appointment, the Commissioner and  CEO of the Accident Investigation Bureau[AIB],  has undergone various types of trainings locally and abroad on Aviation Safety, Management and Operations has  also undertook various assignments  that broadened his knowledge, capacity and capability  for the current assignment.

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