Senate chamber in session at the National Assembly

  Summons aviation minister over near air mishaps

Damilola Oyedele and James Emejo in Abuja

The Senate on Tuesday postponed the consideration and passage of the Nigeria Intelligence Financial Agency (NFIA) Bill to today.

The House of Representatives, on the other hand, adopted the recommendations of Conference Committee on the Bill, which when passed into law will grant the agency financial and operational autonomy, and will lead to its domiciliation in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The harmonised report of the conference committee, which was laid by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, was scheduled for consideration yesterday. It was listed as the first item on the order paper for the day.

But during plenary, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremmadu, who presided, did not give any reason for the decision not to consider the report as scheduled.

He, however, said its passage into law would be a major achievement for Nigeria.
“This is am important bill, and I am happy you have come to an agreement with the House of Representatives. This would be a huge achievement and by the time it is considered and passed, hopefully, tomorrow (today), Nigeria’s suspension would be lifted by the Egmont Group,” Ekweremadu said.

The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki on Sunday had assured that the bill would be passed this week.
The passage of the NFIA bill into law is a precursor for Nigeria’s readmission into the Egmont Group, after the country was suspended in July 2017 for failing to grant financial and operational autonomy to the agency.
Nigeria has until the group’s next meeting coming up on March 12, 2018, to meet the requirements for its reinstatement.

The passage of the NFIA bill had been delayed at the conference committee stage in the National Assembly over the disagreement between the Senate and House Committees on Anti-Corruption on the domiciliation of the unit, which is currently in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

THISDAY had exclusively reported that following the intervention of Saraki and the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the conference committee had agreed to domicile the NFI in the CBN.

The Egmont Group provides a platform for sharing criminal intelligence and financial information bordering on money laundering, terrorism financing, proliferation of arms, corruption, financial crimes, economic crimes and similar offences geared towards the support of local and international investigations, prosecutions and assets recovery.

Nigeria was fully admitted into the coveted body in 2007, after operational admittance in 2005.
In another development, the Senate also summoned the Minister of State for Transportation (Aviation), Mr. Hadi Sirika to appear before it over the state of the aviation sector where near air mishaps had been recorded recently.

It also urged the ministry to immediately direct all the relevant agencies in the sector to conduct a maintenance and airworthiness audit on all commercial aircrafts operating in Nigeria’s airspace.

The resolution followed a motion by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos, APC) and eight others on the need to minimise the possibility of air mishaps and near fatalities in Nigeria.
Ashafa cited the near fatal incident involving Dana Airlines on February 20 when an emergency door fell off upon landing in Abuja.

He expressed concern that the incident, among others in recent times, were a sign of sequence of human errors caused by the failure of officials and staff of agencies saddled with the responsibility of guaranteeing air safety, to carry out their due diligence before issuing clearance for aircraft to operate.

Senator Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara, APC) in his contribution pointed out that there were no maintenance facilities for airplane in Nigeria and so the maintenance of their aircraft had to be done abroad.

He therefore called for the establishment of maintenance facilities in the country, which would also save Nigeria scarce foreign exchange, seemingly forgetting that Aerocontractors recently established a C-Check facility at its hanger at the Lagos airport.

But Senator Stella Oduah (Anambra, PDP) who was a former Minister of Aviation, said the problems of the aviation sector could not be solved by a public hearing.
She noted that the government must provide funds for airline operators to access at a single digit interest rate to finance the training of their staff, and maintenance of their aircraft.

“The aviation sector is the most regulated sector in the country, all these processes are there. The issue is why are the processes not followed? No pilot is suicidal to deliberately fly a faulty airplane,” Oduah said.
Meanwhile, in the House yesterday, the lower legislative chamber received and considered the report of the Conference Committee on the NFIA Bill.

The House, at the Committee of the Whole, chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Lasun, read the report clause-by-clause before adopting all the recommendations.
The bill will subsequently proceed to the ceremonial third reading and will be passed by a voice vote during plenary.
The House Conference Committee Chairman, Hon. Kayode Oladele had earlier presented the report to the lower chamber.