‘Why NCAA Autonomy Should Be Enforced’

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Chinedu Eze

Some officials of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have said interferences in the operations of the agency have eroded its autonomy and oversight responsibilities.

An official who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity said there has been increasing interference in the operation of the NCAA as a regulatory agency. This the source said was affecting the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations.

“I can tell you that the autonomy of NCAA is just on paper, in implementation, the Ministry of Aviation is eroding the autonomy. Autonomy means allowing the agency to do what it wants to do, guided by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations.

“One of the ways to guarantee the autonomy of NCAA is the way it is funded. NCAA is funded by five per cent ticket and cargo service charge, which means that it won’t depend on government for its sustenance. “But since 2015 the agency was categorised as revenue generating agency and made it compulsory for the agency to pay 20-25 per cent of its gross revenue to the federal government,” the official said.

He noted that NCAA needs the funds for the continuous training of its manpower, remarking that the NCAA needs to scale up salary for inspectors and other technical staff in order to attract the best to the agency so that the agency would be able to provide better oversight.

“We are supposed to have qualified personnel in sufficient number. This is the requirement of the International Civil Aviation Organsiation (ICAO). We are supposed to have qualified aircraft inspectors who could be attracted by good emoluments that should be close to or better than what they could get elsewhere in order to keep them. We are not supposed to travel overseas with airlines to go and inspect their aircraft before they are brought into the country.

“Airlines ought to ensure that their aircraft meet given standards before they are brought into the country. They do not need to be accompanied by the Civil Aviation Authority inspectors. In other countries like South Africa and Brazil, inspectors don’t travel out with airlines.

“We allow that to happen in Nigeria because of the ‘benefits’ that would accrue to the inspectors. But they may not need to level such financial burden on airlines if they are well taken care of by the CAA,” the official said.

However, the Director of Consumer Protection, NCAA, Adamu Abdullahi, who insisted that the agency has been autonomous and has been doing so well, admitted that the regulatory authority ought not be categorised as revenue generating agency.

“The world over CAAs are always encouraged to be self-reliant. In as much as you are in anyway dependent on government for anything then somebody there will be taking decisions and will be pushing you to do things that maybe against the interest of the industry.

“So it is wisdom, when the Act of 2006 (Civil Aviation Act) was crafted that way in which that 58 per cent of 5 per cent as well as other small charges that NCAA makes such as height clearance for mast, permission to construct airports, certification of airports as well as other areas in which you get money such as when someone wants you to come and inspect an aircraft before it comes into the country. All these are recovery, because what we try to do is recover our cost,” he explained.

Another official who spoke to THISDAY, said the agency and other agencies in the aviation industry are weakened when their daily activities and decision making are directed from the Ministry of Aviation, noting that there would be no need to have parastatal heads if they would not be given the freedom to manage the agencies.

“What we have been witnessing is the micro-management of the agencies. But why attention should be paid to that of NCAA is that it is a sensitive agency in which if things go wrong, aircraft will start falling from the skies.

“The agency needs enough funding to retain high crop of its technical staff, it needs to be autonomy to run its activities as it should be but this has not been so,” the official told THISDAY.