Sunday 16 September 2012

Nigeria: Did Aviation Minister Ban Foreign Airlines From the North?

Nigeria's geopolitics has been a tight rope for several public officials since the advent of indigenous rule in Nigeria. Public officials have always been in the epicentre of the whirlwind of public opinion as regards showing a distinct bias to their regions or performing under par for other regions. The reason for this is not farfetched Nigeria is a country of diverse cultures, idiosyncrasies, religions, political inclinations and ethnic groups
Recently there have been a spate of reports aimed at cast the Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah in poor light; like destructive locusts in season, some individuals have set out to obliterate the efforts the Minister is making to improve the sector in the North. However, the minister's transformation is in full motion and cannot be truncated by such negative reports.
Oduah is not oblivious of the place of Northern Nigeria especially since it forms the core of the historical perspective of the aviation industry in Nigeria especially with the landing in 1925 of a RAF aircraft and the subsequent construction of the Kano aerodrome. This is a fact that is not known to the detractors of the Minister's strides. They have also failed to realize she is attuned to the cultures and ways of life of the peoples of Northern Nigerian. It is this profound understanding that inspired her to refurbish Hajj terminals in Kaduna and Kano states. Anyone who understands the religion of Islam knows that the ritual is one of the fundamental tenets of Islam -an injunction for every adult Muslim, if they can afford it, then it is imperative to perform Hajj in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Hajj terminals are an integral part of Hajj activities as this is where pilgrims stay sometimes for long indeterminate stretch before being airlifted to the holy land. These structures have been transformed from their dilapidated states to comfortable, standard terminals to serve much more than a waiting edifice for pilgrims. Certainly this wouldn't have been the case if the Minister was a bigot as some people would want us to believe.
In all the peddling of the negative agenda against the policies of the Ministry of Aviation and the person of the Minister, the usual misinformation and outright selective perception pales in comparison to the recent allegations of preventing international airlines from landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja, to further undermine her, her traducers said she had diverted such planes to Enugu. If only these individuals were not bowing at the altar of ulterior motives they would have discovered that profit from ventures guide the airlines and not the service they provide to geopolitical zones. These are guided by comprehensive commercial agreements; the Minister's duty is to regulate their business conduct in Nigeria but not to dictate to them where or where not to fly to...this can and should only be decided by the strength of traffic that plies the location.
On the Emirate and Etihad issue, the minister made a strong case for the decentralization of the Operations of these Airlines from Lagos and in line with International practice, presented commercially convincing data showing the possible commercial benefits that the Airlines can get if they start operating from Lagos, Kano and Enugu. The Airlines were convinced to look at these and went a step further to even sign some Agreements.
One should not also forget the recent project embarked upon by the Nasarawa State government led by Gov. Umaru Al-Makura who has embarked upon two visionary projects -an aerodrome is being constructed in Lafia and a cargo airport in Karshi. These projects being located in the North Central part of the country no doubt will boost the economic potentials of the Northern region and ensure that a cargo hub is established thereby decentralising the movement of goods and services in the region; this is aside serving as a second runway for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja. The projects already have the backing of the Minister of Aviation Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, who has continued to encourage Nigerians irrespective of tribe or creed to invest in the aviation sector. Her show of support came to fore when members of the Federal Ministry of Aviation were part of the governor's entourage during the aerial tour of the proposed sites for the airport.
That is why it is rather disheartening that one of the distinguished stakeholders of the aviation industry like Rufai Chanchangi, Vice Chairman of the Aviation Committee of the House of Representatives who is of Northern extraction will overlook the aforementioned strides and call for the minister's resignation without resorting to a proper investigation of the circumstances surrounding the issues at hand is an act unexpected of an operator, especially one who has the distinct role of serving as the vice chairman of the committee responsible for overseeing the ministry of aviation. What is expected from such quarters is to say the least a modicum of sustained guidance; especially at this critical juncture when the bulk of airport terminals undergoing reconstruction are located in North of the country.
As the minister struggles to make Nigerian skies one of the most viable and safest in sub-Saharan Africa she must be encouraged to deliver on the mandate of good governance and due diligence as it relates to the aviation ministry. The North and indeed Nigeria as a whole would be better off for it. We are far from the season of locusts.
Dati wrote from Abuja


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