Aviation Sector Revolution of President Buhari Administration, By Ismail Ahmed, Lanre Issa-Onilu, Tolu Ogunlesi and Salihu Moh. Lukman

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, in May 2016, launched its Aviation Roadmap, with the aim of transforming the sector, in terms of safety, infrastructure and economic viability. The APC Legacy Awareness and Campaign, a voluntary think-tank group of the governing party, recognise major highlights of the Roadmap to include the Establishment of a National Carrier, Development of Agro-Allied/Cargo Terminals, Concessioning of the Major International Airports, Establishment of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Center, Establishment of an Aviation Leasing Company, Development of Aerotropolis (Airport Cities), Establishment of an Aerospace University, Designation of 4 International Airports as Special Economic Zones, Upgrade of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT).

Since the launching of the Aviation Roadmap, the Ministry of Aviation has focused on implemention. In terms of infrastructure, the new Terminals of the Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kano International Airports, inherited from the previous administration, have been completed, while the new Lagos Terminal is very close to completion. Brand new Runways have been constructed at the Abuja and Enugu International Airports, in 2017 and 2020, respectively. 

More than a dozen airports around the country have had Low Level Windshear Alert Systems (LLWAS) installed, to improve flight safety. Investigations revealed that the  Sosoliso and ADC plane crashes of 2005 and 2006 respectively were caused by the absence of LLWAS in the airports. The Lagos and Abuja Airports have had the Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS) installed – which provides the capability for landing safely and accurately in conditions of near-zero visibility. Another 3 Nigerian Airports have been scheduled to benefit this year.

The Concession process for the Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt International Airports – the four main International Airports in the country – is ongoing, with completion of the process scheduled for 2022. 

A significant portion of the investment into the Aviation Sector has been focused on resolving issues and bridging gaps inherited from previous Administrations. One example is the payment of pensions owed to staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways. President Buhari approved that the backlog of almost twenty years be cleared, and has released funds to this effect. The reconstruction of the Runways in Abuja and Enugu were also long overdue, but neglected by previous governments. Investments that should have been made over the decades are now finally being made. 

Under President Buhari’s watch, the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) has acquired several new training aircraft, and has been recognised globally by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Among other things the NCAT now has a brand new Boeing 737 Full Flight Simulator, as well as a fully-automated Fire and Smoke Aircraft Training Simulator, which now means that Nigerian personnel no longer have to be sent to Cameroon for training on tackling aircraft fires and smoke. 

The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) now has a world-class Flight Safety Laboratory, which means that Airplane Recorders, popularly known as “Black Box”, no longer have to be sent abroad for analysis. Furthermore, the AIB is now actively providing technical support and services to other African countries, including assisting Sierra Leone to set up its own Accident Investigation Agency, in 2021. 

On the matter of the new private-sector-led National Carrier, the MInister of Aviation has assured that the establishment process is still on course, with a target commencement date for operations in Q3 2022. In May 2021, President Buhari approved the designation of the 4 major International Airports in the country as Special Economic Zones. The procurement processes for the establishment of an Aviation Leasing Company, a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Center, and an Aerospace University are also all ongoing. 

To mitigate the negative impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the sector, the Federal Government in 2020 released the sum of 5 billion Naira in bailout funds, which was shared amongst airlines, ground handling companies, travel agencies, flight catering services operators, and other stakeholders. 

Just like in roads, rail, and ports, Nigeria’s Aviation Industry is undergoing a revolution, in terms of unprecedented investments in infrastructure and capacity-building, under the watch of President Buhari.

Barr. Ismail Ahmed, Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, Mr. Tolu Ogunlesi, Mr. Salihu Moh. Lukman

July 21, 2021