Aviation Roadmap: Gone with the Wind? Or Flight in Progress?

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Hadi Sirika, Aviation Minister

When the boarding of the beautiful Aviation Roadmap was announced over five years ago, every aviation stakeholder and enthusiast applauded and were beside themselves with joy that the fortune of the industry was going to change for the better.

Unfortunately, with so much excitement and optimism as the Roadmap taxi and took off, the cloud became misty and dark but yet it gained altitude and entered into severe turbulence.

Though the Roadmap is still in flight trying to maintain balance for over 5 years now, the turbulence and the dark clouds have refused to abate.

The believe of the stakeholders is that either the pilot and his/her crew failed to go for weather briefing by NIMET before embarking on the flight or refused to heed the warning of the NIMET as regards the bad weather phenomenon predicted because his/her assumed that with the many years of experience on the job, could navigate the skies seamlessly with the bad weather.

Anyway, the passengers onboard and those on ground waiting for its arrival are apprehensive that the aircraft may never land or may even crash, I think the MAYDAY call should be sounded to prepare the necessary personnel and facilities for the aircraft safe landing. Anyway, this may not be necessary because there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel.

However, to assure the expectant stakeholders and countrymen that the Roadmap has gained altitude and now stable, a document of ‘Assurance’ giving updates on how far in the sky the roadmap had gone has been released and this no doubt has caused some jubilation in some quarters that the Roadmap would land soon, very soon.

The RoadMap

  1. Establishment of a National Carrier
  2. Establishment of a Maintenance, Repair and Ovehaul, MRO, center
  3. Establishment of an Aerospace University
  4. Designation of Airports as Free Trade/Economic Processing Zones
  5. Development of Cargo/Agro-Allied Airport Terminals
  6. Concession of Airports
  7. Establishment of an Aviation Leasing Company
  8. Development of Airport Cities(Aerotropolis)

These projects unarguably are laudable and beneficial for all Nigerians. It will not only create huge job opportunities, it will encourage agricultural sector, production of more foods for export, open up Nigeria to the world, reciprocate all BASA routes, enhance the operational efficiency of the airports after concession, reduce capital flight in the area of aircraft maintenance among others.

Updates/Status/Next Step

Concession:
Status: project development phase completed with the development of the outline business case(OBC) and subsequent insurance of compliance certificate by the infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC)
Next Step: Placement of request for qualification(RFQ) in local and international media.

Cargo/Agro-Allied Airport
Status: Final stage of the project development phase. Outline Business Case completed and submitted to the ICRC for review and issuance of compliance certificate.
Next step: Commencement of procurement phase.

MRO
Status: Advanced stage in the procurement phase. A preferred partner has been selected. Negotiations to commence soon.
Next step: Commencement of negotiations with preferred partner and finalization of Full Business Case( FBC).

Airport Cities (Aerotropolis)
Status: Final stage of the project development phase. Outline Business Case completed and submitted to the ICRC for review and issuance of compliance certificate.
Next step: Commencement of procurement phase.

National Carrier (Nigeria Air)

Status: Project development phase completed with the development of the Outline Business Case (OBC) and subsequent issuance of compliance certificate by the ICRC.
Next step: Procurement of Request for Qualification, (RFQ) in local and international media.
Next step: Commencement of procurement phase by placing advert for Request for Qualification in the National Dallies and foreign media.
$250Million approximately is to be raised to start up the airline by private investors.

Aviation Leasing Company
Status: Advanced stage in the procurement phase. A preferred partner has been selected, negotiations to commence soon.
Next step: Commencement of negotiations with preferred partner and finalization of Full Business Case (FBC).

Aerospace University
Status: National Universities Commission has given the requirements
The Ministry to develop a concept to be forwarded to NUC for their consideration.

It is commendable that a lot of energy, time and resources have been expended towards the actualization of the Aviation development Roadmap for the country and all kudos go to the Ministry of Aviation who is spearheading the project.

Till date, it is still the opinion of many that the projects should have been taken one at a time to achieve the desired results but from the look of things, having a mouthful of Apple and still been able to chew and grind them well may perhaps prove difficult to achieve, it is either you choke or spit some out to allow the mouth accommodate what it can take or bite only what you can chew.

Stakeholders thought on the RoadMap and the recent ‘Assurance’ document

President, Aviation RoundTable Safety Initiative, ART, Dr. Gbenga Olowo

To be very honest, when you talk about road in aviation, I think we are not getting it right, we should be talking about airmap because our business is air actually so when you talk about road then we are not moving, that’s the little I can say. We haven’t done much with the Roadmap in 6 years, we could have done better, we could have moved faster in achieving all those beautiful ideas that we embraced once the government announced it, I think we haven’t done enough, we could do better.

MRO

MRO is a business, so I will not expect government to come with MRO if anybody wants to come with MRO, it is a private business like running an airline, running an airline is a business, government endorsed concession because it was their former asset but if you want to establish an MRO, while don’t you go through the process establish MRO . Government has said MRO is good because airlines should maintain internally, they will come cheaper so where are the MRO’s? If am interested in MRO just like somebody is interested in simulator, simulator is a business on its own provided you have the airlines around that will use your facility, if they wouldn’t you establish it, you would loss money. Similarly is MRO, if I want to establish MRO, all I need is to get government buy in, am interested in doing MRO in Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano in wherever and I proceed and do it if I have the investor, so I don’t think it is a government issue because if you bring government again into MRO, you are again bringing in monopoly and the monopoly cannot be negotiated, I know the monopoly of PHCN in some areas where people are paying through their nose, people don’t want to use PHCN anymore, people are installing solar all kinds of alternative to PHCN.

My argument day to day is, do away with the monopoly, lets break the monopoly in the system so that we can get maximum benefits of service and efficient in all our service areas.

Concession

Well I can’t speak for the Minister, I can only speak for the industry which I belong to and I think that if we learn from errors of history, we won’t repeat it, we cannot continue to embrace government monopoly that is why we still don’t have power, what we still have is monopoly and there are agitations from here and there employee in particular, what is slowly government on concession I don’t know.

ICRC who is responsible for concessioning especially of all sectors including aviation, owes us an explanation, where are they, whether this concessioning approach is a birth of the National Carrier where is it? And I said in six years of this administration we don’t have concession, we don’t have the national carrier, the other carriers on ground are speculating what do we do, what do we do because when you know the plans of government you can plan into the future, comply your business into the future, so how do we plan?.

ICRC owes us an explanation where are we with the concessioning of the airports, where are we with the national carrier, it is not necessarily the Minister, it is the ICRC, except they are already shut down and Minister is now in charge of everything then the minister should come and tell us where are we? With the national carrier, what is the status of the concessioning of the airports, are we going to continue as a monopoly? Airport monopolies? The only sector that is privatized now are the airlines and you can see competition and all the benefits of competition, we are enjoying it, prices couldn’t go up because of competition and when there is competition, there is efficiency. In every sector only airlines are doing that right now the airports are not, all the others are monopoly, I don’t enjoy monopoly.

Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd)
Former AirForce Commandant MMIA

National Carrier

The questions I have asked in 2019 and now are: what is the value or fund for the startup of the airline? What percentage of it is the $300m initial request by the ministry from the FG that the FEC stepped down in 2019? What percentage of the value is the $250m now called private investment? Who are the private investors? Are they foreign or local or the $250m investment is for foreign and local private investors? What then is the value of government investment or share? If we don’t or can not find answers to these questions, we don’t know what we are looking for and if we don’t know what we are looking for, we can not find it.

To begin a national carrier, we would need minimum 10 aircraft that will cost us not less than $1bn or half of the amount if even we have to take part on lease. Av suggested foreign technical investors and local private investors to take 60%, Federal and States governments 10% and 30% for the Nigerian public. The question to ask again; which is relevant for our development for global competition, national carrier or flag carrier? We had better drop the idea of a national carrier and go for two flag carriers where government has very little share not more than 5%. One for regional and continental and the other for intercontinental. The shareholdings remain same.

Olu Uhuayo Aviation Analyst

National Carrier

This is not the time to talk about national carrier, events have overtaken it, what we need now is provide infrastructure then build a national carrier from what we have on ground, we can build a national carrier from AMCON side and build flag carriers from the private investors, some certain investors you want to bring $250million to start a carrier and they will now be given privilege over other investors in the industry that is fair and I don’t see any reason why we continue with this National Carrier project. The FEC got it right by stepping it down and I think it should remain stepped down. We were given palliatives and N25billion was kept for this National Carrier that is still-born, airlines and infrastructure are suffering and I don’t see any reason why we should go back to this National Carrier, I think it is just for the Minister to get down from his high horse and join AMCON in their airline or support or infrastructure so that flights can have more frequencies, more flights and fares will go down, everybody is complaining about exorbitant fares.

Secretary General, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba

Roadmap

The Sirika Roadmap is a very good map and if we follow it, it will take us to a very good place in Aviation in Nigeria, unfortunately, Sirika himself is not on that map or at least we cannot find him on it what it means is that, there is nothing good that is happening to the Roadmap, therefore it remains just a map until we begin to take actions that are in line with walking that roadmap, it will remain what it is a RoadMap.

While stakeholders and other Nigerians who are passionate about the roadmap are entitled to their opinions on the matter, it remains to be seen if the RoadMap will come to being and achieve the purpose for which it was drawn or remains a Map that would show the road of a prosperous future for Nigeria Aviation development.

For now, the Aviation RoadMap remains a work in progress Map.