Buhari to ICAO: Nigeria will Increase Investments in Aviation Safety, Security

* Sirika justifies aviation fuel scarcity, says it’s a global problem

Deji Elumoye in Abuja 

President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that Nigeria will deploy more investments aimed at the provision of infrastructure and facilities for safe, secure, environmentally friendly and sustainable civil aviation.
This is just as the Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika, justified the current aviation fuel scarcity in the country, saying the situation was not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
The president, who spoke Tuesday while receiving in audience the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Mr Juan Carlos Salazar, at the State House, Abuja, said Nigeria will support the ideals and aspirations of ICAO and achievement of its strategic objectives, in collaboration with other member states of the organization.
According to him, “Nigeria became a member of ICAO Council in 1962 and since then, it has continued to make valuable contributions to the Council’s work and its activities.
“It is pertinent to also mention that Nigeria has been playing a key role in supporting the implementation of ICAO policies and programmes internationally, and particularly in the African region.
“To this end, Nigeria has ratified international air law instruments like the Montreal Protocol and amendments to some articles of the Chicago Convention. Nigeria is also championing the cause of Aviation safety, security and facilitation in Africa.”
The president told the ICAO delegation that he has approved the establishment of Aerospace University in Abuja to cater for research and development, as well as provide manpower for the industry.
“In this regard, Nigeria is looking forward to the continued support of ICAO under its ‘No Country Left Behind’ initiative,’’ he added.
President Buhari also noted that the Nigerian Government has established independent agencies in order to enhance aviation safety and security, while ensuring effective and efficient provision and management of infrastructure in all aspects of the industry.
“These include the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority for safety and economic oversight of the industry; the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency for air traffic services; the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria for management of government-owned airports; the Nigerian Meteorological Agency for meteorological services; and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, the nation’s main aviation training organization, established in 1964 in collaboration with ICAO and the United Nations Development Programme.
“Nigeria is fully committed to working with other states and support the implementation of the Global Aviation Safety Plan, the Global Air Navigation Plan, as well as the Global Aviation Security Plan,’’ the president said.
As part of its support, President Buhari said Nigeria, over time, seconded auditors to support various ICAO programmes in the areas of safety and security.
“We have also contributed experts on various ICAO technical panels, commissions and working groups.
“The Government of Nigeria has adopted a civil aviation policy, which is centred on liberalization and Public-Private-Partnerships Initiative. These have resulted in huge investments in the nation’s airports infrastructure and services, increased capacity utilization and phenomenal increase in the number of domestic operators. Indeed, the domestic and international traffic has experienced a tremendous growth since our assumption of office in 2015.
“Nigeria is the headquarters of the Regional Safety Oversight Organisation, the Banjul Accord Group Aviation Safety Oversight Organization and also, a major contributor and participant in the Regional Accident Investigation Agency, the Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency,’’ he added.
According to the president, Nigeria recently made a robust donation to the ICAO voluntary Air Transport Fund in order to be part of the global efforts for recovery from COVID-19 crisis.
“We have also made significant financial contribution to the Safety and Human Resource Development Funds, in addition to hosting several ICAO meetings and regional workshops, including the widely acclaimed successful third ICAO World Aviation Forum, as well as several other workshops on safety oversight,’’ he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Aviation, Sirika, commended President Buhari for the giant strides taken under his administration in the areas of aviation safety, security and development.
“Our profile improved significantly during your tenure, Mr President. Passengers rose from eight million to 18 million in four years, while security and safety also went up significantly,” he said.
Earlier in his speech, the ICAO scribe lauded what he called “the leadership role Nigeria plays in civil aviation in Africa”, saying the country’s record is one of the most impressive in the world.
“The number of airports have doubled, passengers are growing in spite of COVID-19. The record of safety is the most important performance indicator of all. I recognize the excellent work by your government to maintain high standards, in line with international best practices,” Salazar said.
Stressing that it’s important to maintain the track record, the ICAO Secretary General stressed that there was no end line in civil aviation, “we keep chasing targets that go on and on”.
He urged President Buhari to sustain the support being given to the sector, to attract further investment, tourism and continued growth.
Addressing newsmen after the visit, the aviation minister said aviation fuel scarcity with its attendant high cost was not peculiar to Nigeria.
Sirika also gave reasons for the high cost of the product globally and what the government was doing to arrest the spiral in the price of the commodity.
His words: “The scarcity and high cost of Jet A1 in civil aviation is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a global phenomenon driven by many factors.

“Some of them include even low capacity to refine the product. It’s also high demand around the world, it has  increased activity and increased number of airplanes out there and users of this jet A1. Plus also the Ukraine crisis and many more. It’s a time when crude itself is so expensive today, it is in the hundreds of dollars per barrel and only the high cost of Jet A1 product in Nigeria. Also the peculiarity of the fact that we’re not refining the product, so to speak. 

“And I did address the press a couple of days ago, saying that by the grace of God, perhaps once the Dangote refinery is online or if the government fixes the Port Harcourt refinery, which is now ongoing, we will begin to refine this product and sell it. 

“And as a stopgap measure, interim measure, there’s an agreement that the airline operators of Nigeria would nominate either from out of themselves or from other major oil marketers to be given the opportunity to import this product. Then also get the necessary foreign exchange for that purpose. And that will now increase more supply and perhaps drive down the cost. 
“So this is not unique to Nigeria.  And unfortunately we’re going through this phase, but civilization from time always survives challenges. They come, unfortunately, but then you see civil aviation graphs keep going up. We hope that this is a temporary thing around the world and we hope that Jet A1 will be very available everywhere and at the very good price. 
“And we will hope, in the future, that we learn to do away with all these carbon emitters and have much more cleaner energy, which will be more readily available for everybody on a very cheaper cost to make civil Aviation transportation, the preferred choice.”

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