Wanted: Right personnel for regulatory agency

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is grappling with the challenge of attracting safety inspectors to overhaul its oversight duties.The inability of the civil aviation authority to compete financially with private carriers is becoming a huge hurdle in retaining such technical personnel. Proposals to reverse the trend have sparked a huge row among airline operators, KELVIN OSA-OKUNBOR reports

The desire to attract the right technical personnel in achieving effective oversight of civil aviation is becoming work in progress.

Reason: only a well-motivated, highly trained and certified personnel in the relevant directorates in the civil aviation authority could enhance the pursuit of safety and robust discharge of civil aviation for airlines, ground handling firms, aviation fuel suppliers, airport authorities and other organisations in the aeronautical value chain.

To drive home this point, th e Director-General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, has in the last few months complained of the shortage of technical personnel in the authority to meet the  needs of the country.

Nuhu said as much the authority is working to block the gap in such technical personnel, the burden of its surveillance duties requires it to have young vibrant safety inspectors, who are pulling out of the authority because of its inadequate remuneration.

As an intervention, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has called on the Federal Government to remove the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) from the civil service structure to enable the agency to attract the right personnel to safeguard the aviation industry.

AON made the call in a letter to the Senate on January 19, 2022 and addressed to the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan and explained that the request was of safety concern to the industry.

The AON letter to the Senate was signed by its President, Alhaji Yunusa Abdulmunaf Sarina.

AON stated that the NCAA was established to regulate government policies in the industry and also enforce the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety standards and recommended practisces to ensure that the operators met the safety requirements.

But the agency would only be able to do this if it attracts the right personnel with sound technical know-how and to attract these special skills, it must be willing to offer these personnel attractive and competitive emoluments.

“To effectively carry out its important duties as highlighted above, the NCAA needs to attract and engage a team of technically sound professionals in virtually every field of aviation, notably flight operations, engineering, safety inspectors, dispatchers, cabin executives, among others, to conduct regular oversight of the industry.

“It is, however, sad to note that there is a growing level of deficiency within the NCAA in the area of human capacity due to its inability to attract and retain experienced industry professionals as a result of its inadequate recruitment and salary regime compared to the offers they get from working for the airlines,” AON said.

The operators told the Senate that because of this situation, many inspectors were leaving the NCAA and the few that remained were not well-motivated and hardly enough to meet the requirements of the industry, adding that the young personnel that are in the agency do not have the required experience.

AON stressed that this portends immediate danger to flight safety and  operations, as the few hands left were either too old and tired or were too inexperienced to undertake proper and adequate oversight functions over airlines’ operations.

The operators noted that no country allows its civil aviation authority salaries to be determined by civil service rules.

“AON would, therefore, like to use this medium to call on the National Assembly to review the establishment Act of the NCAA and to remove the agency from the civil service salary structure in order for the agency to be able to attract the urgently needed experts for the sake of safety,” AON urged.

A former Deputy General Secretary, AON and Chairman, Hudson Bay Aviation, Alhaji Mohammed Tukur, has lashed at Sarina over what he described as his meddlesomeness in the affairs of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

The AON boss was reported to have written to the President of the Senate to request the removal of NCAA from the civil service to enable it to offer salaries that could attract experienced manpower to the authority and save it from the dearth of appropriate staff to oversee the aviation sector.

He advised Sarina to rather concentrate on building his airline that was just coming out of the authority’s hammer over safety concerns than raise unnecessary alarm to create panic and fear in the minds of the public.

Mohammed noted that NCAA has the most skilled and experienced manpower in the sub-region, which has enabled it to acquire the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category One status, adding that the country has laboured hard to build the regulatory authority to a global standard such that beginners like Alhaji Abdulmunaf should not be allowed to pull it down through unguarded statements.

“If the remuneration of the staff of the authority have become a contentious matter, it is not the duty of AON to champion the cause and if there was  the need for such input from the operators, there is an open channel of communication between the NCAA and the operators on one hand and the Ministry of Aviation.”

He said if the staff members were not being properly remunerated as propagated by AON chairman, the workers’union was the appropriate body, through its collective bargaining, to initiate dialogue with the management of the regulatory agency for salary review and not the business of airline operators.

Mohammed stated that he was not convinced that the AZMAN Airlines boss was speaking the mind of the members of AON, noting that the purported statement was self-indicting on the part of the operators as the they have by such letter admitted that they were not properly being over sighted by the authority for lack of manpower.

“This position also tends to imply that  aviation is not safe for investment. It is also likely to push up insurance premiums and the cost of aircraft lease among others,” he further stated.

While advising the Senate to ignore the so-called letter from Abdulmunaf, Tukur called for sanctions against those behind the purported letter from AON to the Senate.

Article first published on The Nation Online Website

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