Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah
The federal government has denied rescinding the regulation that pilots must declare the manifest of their flights air traffic controllers for documentation and said that it has insisted on that rule because of safety and security reasons.
The Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, told THISDAY that government has never contemplated dropping the idea in spite of the criticism of the policy in some quarters, noting that pilots know that it is a policy which they must abide by.
“It is not true that we have rescinded the policy. The manifest declaration is mandatory. We are not holding the passenger responsible; it is the operator because the operator is a professional and knows the policy; that you do not fly without declaring the manifest and you are doing so because it is a safety requirement,” the Minister said.
When an operator refuses to declare of its flights he is penalised and if he consistently flouts the policy his operations would be grounded, so declared the minister.
“The objective of this policy is to ensure that the operator is penalised for non-compliance. And if they do it repeatedly the operator will not be allowed to fly anymore.”
Although many in the aviation sector kicked against this practise, but commercial airline operators and industry experts gave kudos to the federal government, saying that the policy was necessary to check the excesses of some people in the country.
“Some people use private jets to ferry drugs, sneak criminals in and out of the country and carry contraband goods. They use it to fly huge cash out of the country. So what is the interest of those who are criticising the policy? They know why they do not want to declare their manifest. The law should not be made selective. People should not feel they are against the law. We have to keep our airspace and the country safe,” said an operator of an airline.
The minister also told THISDAY that government would install airfield lighting at the airport runways that do not have it and seven airports would benefit from the project this year.
Airlines cut their operations to daylight airports, which affect the schedule and the utilisation of their machines, as it would be beneficial to the airlines to operate for more hours with their aircraft and maximise their capacity; the Minister said that that problem would soon be solved.
“We are procuring now. We are going to provide airfield lighting at both the international and all the local airports. We are doing them in phases. This year alone we are going to award the installation contract to about seven airports and as I said earlier, we are going to have back-ups on back-ups. We are going to have the conventional, we have the solar and inverter. So at any given time we will have electricity at the airports and what we want to also do is to work with IPPs at the Lagos airport.”
The minister said using generators to power the airports was cost-intensive so the introduction of Independent Power Providers (IPPs) would ensure more reliable and less expensive provision of electricity at the airport.
“In the next 24 months, God willing, we are going to have IPP replacing the current electricity supply that we have now because the present one is really not efficient, in my view. It is a very, very expensive way to operate, so if we can have gas and have IPP that costs nothing, why not go for IPP that is far much more efficient?”
The minister said most of these projects would be completed in the next 24 months.