Players in the aviation industry have excoriated the last minute appointments of the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, for removing top aviation agency functionaries and replacing them with others.
While many who criticised his action said he failed to follow due process, they also said he should have allowed the in-coming government to appoint those it can work with in line with what will be the focus in the aviation industry.
Defending his action, Sirika however said he received approval from President Muhammadu Buhari for all the appointments he made.
Some stakeholders also criticised what they referred to as the appointment of non-professionals even though some of the appointments made, were from those who have worked in the industry for decades that are seasoned with invaluable experience.
The President/CEO of Top Brass Aviation Limited, Captain Roland Iyayi, described the appointment as blackmail against the in-coming administration, which he said, would incur the wrath of the industry if it decided to remove those last minute appointments, saying that Sirika’s action was corrupt and unethical. He also alleged that he appointed his aides who worked with him over the years he served as the Minister of Aviation.
“He is simply blackmailing the in-coming administration. He wants to create problem for them with those appointments. He decided to compensate his aides by appointing them in those positions and went as far as creating new positions to accommodate them. In doing so, he has disenfranchised the professionals in the aviation agencies who have put up to 30 years in service. He put his cronies in all the agencies. They should be resisted. He has created problems for his successor. He wanted to tarnish the image of the in-coming Minister of Aviation. He will be seen as a very bad person when he wants to make any changes in the appointments he has made,” Iyayi said.
Industry expert and the General Secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said Sirika’s action would not make any sense to the in-coming administration and advised some of those appointed not to rest well in their new job because it would be ephemeral.
“It makes no reasonable sense for the incoming administration to accept all the appointments made by Sirika at quarter to go. I can only advise most of them, especially those appointed from the by-pass not to sit with the two slashes of their bottom. There will be reverse of many. Aviation is not road transportation. Without qualifications at any level of it, it makes no sense to be elevated to the level of General Manager. I think this is the worst we have ever seen in the industry. Before this man came in, we were under the Transport Ministry and there was so much complain about staff strength and structure that has made the agencies not to run efficiently; and he promised to restructure or call a committee to look into it and resolve those issues so that the agencies can be a bit lean, have better remuneration and reduction in union conflicts,” Ojikutu said.
Head of Business Development, Zenith Travels and the spokesman of Aviation Round Table (ART), Olu Ohunayo, said that Sirika first moved Aviation from the Ministry of Transportation and made it a stand-alone ministry, which gave him the power to bypass and not inaugurate the board of directors in the agencies. He further said that was where the problem started from.
According to Ohunayo, “Unfortunately, he first moved aviation out of the Ministry of Transportation and became a stand-alone ministry. That gave him power to bypass and not inaugurate the board of directors for each of the agencies. He has expanded the directorates to feed his friends, family and cronies and all appointments and employments that have been done under this man must be reviewed. Most importantly, employment has been screwed towards a particular region and that must be addressed. You cannot allow this to continue because such actions will kill the industry. Look at the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), where we fought for this re-certification process that is going on. All this was done before the minister came to office, but he went to the critical departments and made professional officers to resign. NCAA officials are grumbling because of his interference and employment policy. Nigeria Safety Investigative Bureau (NSIB) should not be under the Ministry of Aviation, and who knows what he has done there now?”
Reacting to these appointments, the industry think-tank, Aviation Round Table also denounced the last-minute appointments made by Sirika.
“The ART equally frowns at any decision of the minister to appoint a new Director General, Managing Directors or Directors with barely 10 days to the eve of the new administration, thereby foreclosing the opportunity for new presidential appointees that will be more suited to the agenda of the incoming administration. The ART is of the view that a more appropriate action would have been to nominate a new candidate for appointment by the incoming minister and there is nothing wrong in extending for a further 30 days, the term of the existing managing director and directors on a transitional basis, to enable the new administration pick the men/women to drive their agenda.
“Aviation is such that once the airplanes lose the officers in the left seat, the officers in the right seat cannot simply take over without the required experience and authorisation. The ART calls the attention of the current minister to ensure the full and faithful implementation of Section 16 of the NCAA Act for the establishment of Directorates and Inspectorates as opposed to the changes he has made in consolidating and placing too many departments under too few personnel and to further comply in particular with Section 16-10,” the body said.