By Chuks Okoh
In the aftermath of the sack of the former aviation minister Stella Oduah last Wednesday, there has been an uneasy calm in the sector.
Our correspondent learnt that the sack of Oduah has remained the subject of discussion in every gathering within and around offices in the airport.
Some loyalists of the former minister refused to comment on her removal as they were yet to recover from the shock.
It will be recalled that Oduah two weeks ago at an event in Lagos boasted that she remained the aviation minister.
This statement by Oduah rekindle confidence in the minds of her loyalists that the Amazon was not going to be sacked following her closeness to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Stakeholders in the industry acknowledged the remodelling of airports across the country but decried the level of corruption in various parastatals in the aviation sector especially the BMW bullet proof cars scandal.
On assumption of duty, Oduah created some directorates in various parastatals and flooded the agencies with directors and general managers from her Neigbhour to Neigbhour group thereby overbloating the workforce in industry.
Stakeholders have condemned her role in taking decisions on her own without consultations.
Some of the general managers who were appointed by Oduah have described their appointments as political and were ready to leave at anytime.
ATSSSAN vows to ensure completion of ex minister’s projects
Members of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ATSSSAN say they were ready to work with the government to ensure the completion of all on going projects in the aviation sector for the benefit of Nigerians.
In a release signed by the President Comrade Benjamin Okewu and deputy national secretary Tarnongu Captain at the end of the association’s meeting in Lagos, said all hands must be on deck to ensure that the exit of Princess Stella Oduah does not in anyway negatively affect the aviation industry.
“On behalf of the members of our union across the nooks and crannies of this country in the aviation and allied industries, we are driving by patriotic fervor and an un-alloyed commitment to sustainable transformation of our great country to recognize the monumental changes currently on-going in our governance polity. As we commend the Federal Government for its
boldness in charting these audacious steps, we also enjoined all well meaning Nigerians to maintain hope and strive to make our country the cynosure of all eyes in the world”
The Union said they were not averse to change since it was the only thing that was constant in life adding that it was time for the President to appoint a person with sincere and fundamental interest of the aviation industry at heart.
They assured President Jonathan of their readiness to provide the necessary platform and safety verve to support the in coming minister and the team to ensure that the transformation agenda of the President in the aviation industry in Nigeria was not truncated.
Aviation stakeholders insist on appointment of industry expert as minister
Stakeholders consisting the Airline Operators of Nigeria ( AON), Aviation Roundtable , and professional unions including National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers ( NAAPE), National Association of Air Traffic Controllers ( NATCA),Nigerian Professional Pilots Association ( NPP), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ( ATSSSAN ), National Association of Air Traffic Engineers (NAEE), National Cabin Crew Association ( NACCA), National Air Traffic Communicators Association of Nigeria ( NACAN)and others, in the aviation industry yesterday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to as a matter of urgency appoint a professional with technical background and interest of the sector as minister of aviation.
They have written a letter to Jonathan to express the seriousness of their agitation, which they affirmed is not negotiable . This is the first time aviation stakeholders are taking a unanimous position on sensitive industry issues .
Rising from an emergency meeting yesterday at the secretariat of National Union of Air Transport Employees( NUATE), at Beesam junction along the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, the convener, Captain Nogie Meggison , who is chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria ( AON), said there could be no better time to appoint an aviation professional as minister than now given the enormity if challenges in the sector.
Megison said the aviation industry is not a learning post for any minister, who out of limited knowledge could make mistakes that could affect several lives. Meggison said the professionals came together to urge Jonathan to appoint an aviation expert as minister,because of the sensitivity of the industry,which should not be left in the hands of non industry experts.
He said failure to appoint an aviation professional as minister will take the industry several years backwards because previous ministers that were appointed could have performed better in office, if they had sufficient knowledge of the sector.
He said like it is the practice in other sectors, including health and justice only seasoned professionals are appointed as ministers .
Meggison explained that though, the immediate minister , Princess Stella Oduah attracted robust funding into the sector, her limited knowledge of aviation led to some of the unpopular policy decisions .
He said the time to let the government know that aviation deserves the best is now.According to him :” It is only an aviation professional that will understand the problems of the sector,not a politician .At a time like this, appointing a non professional will take the industry several years backwards. Appointing another politician will enable us make the same mistakes in the past.
If a new minister is appointed now without knowledge of aviation, it would take him nine months to twelve months to have grip of the industry . This is the reason , we are calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to as a matter of urgency consider appointing an aviation professional as minister . It is not yet late, there is still sufficient time to correct the mistakes of the past.. If previous ministers of aviation has aviation background, the industry would have moved forward .”
Also speaking, the NAAPE President , Isaac Balami said aviation stakeholders are poised to ensure the President listens to their agitation and immediately appoint an aviation professional as minister .Balami said stakeholders will not succumb to any threat or blackmail until the President appoints an industry expert as minister.
He said stakeholders are resolved to ensure that government appoints an aviation expert as minister, who will hit the ground running without requiring too much time to learn on the job.
” The mistakes we have made in the past are enough. We cannot continue in the old fashion of recycling politicians to oversee the aviation sector.This time around, stakeholders insist that an industry expert must be appointed as minister of aviation . Failure to do that will take the industry backwards .”
Also speaking, the president of NUATE, Comrade Mohammed Safiyanu said there is no going back on the appointment of an aviation expert as minister of aviation.
In his remarks,President of aviation roundtable, Captain Dele Ore said there is no going back on the agitation for the appointment of an aviation professional as minister of aviation . Failure to do that will take aviation to the dark ages. The industry cannot afford to have another minister without aviation knowledge who will go through the learning curve all over again .”
We need somebody to hit the ground running , a seasoned professional , who does not need ten months or one year to learn the rudiments of aviation.
One example cited is that Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu , an aviation expert trained in Nigeria was not long ago elected as the president of ICAO;meaning that Nigeria does not lack experts.