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Why aviation industry should not be politicised
Recently, the Deputy Minority Leader of the Federal House of Representatives, Honourable Abdulrahman Suleiman, accused the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, of championing an ethnic agenda to alienate the North from the aviation sector.
The lawmaker, apart from accusing her of denying permission to three foreign airlines to commence commercial flight operations to Abuja, went as far as calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to order the minister to drop the agenda.
His words: “I am also calling on our people in the entire northern Nigeria, irrespective of tribe or religion, to ‘open their eyes’ widely to see the ongoing attempt to alienate us from the country.
”There is no justification for her action, except that she is tribalistic; and no amount of grammar can explain her refusal to grant them the much-needed permit because they have enough passengers coming to Abuja.
“Shortly after she resumed as minister, she also appointed people from her ethnic group as heads of all the eight major agencies under her ministry. I have had cause to institute a parliamentary investigation into the matter on 27th October, 2011.”
“The South-East zone has the managing directors of Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria (NCAT) and Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), while the South-South zone got the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and the South-West got three slots of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), whereas the entire northern region, comprising three geo-political zones, was left with nothing.
“These lopsided appointments, project location and other actions such as the one on the three affected airlines, violate the Federal Character Act and the Constitution, which states that there should be no dominance of one tribe or region in any government agency.
But the minister, in a swift reaction through her media adviser, Joe Obi, denied the accusations, saying they were far from the truth. “In view of the foregoing, we make haste to declare that we have no records anywhere indicating that the Aviation Minister either stopped any airline from operating into Abuja and Kano or forced any particular one to operate into the Enugu International Airport. To be sure, the minister has been making strenuous efforts to convince KLM, in conjunction with the Kano State government, to continue to operate into Kano Airport for which it had earlier stopped its operations,” Obi stated.
The lawmaker absolutely has the right to express his feelings and while one is not trying to speak for the minister, it has become necessary however to put some records straight.
The need to put some records straight becomes imperative since no country’s aviation sector can work in isolation outside the aviation global recommended and standard practices which Nigeria is a signatory to.
Aviation sector is known to be the most regulated sector, apart from the sensitive role it plays. It is not a terrain where every ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ can come into, except such people are well trained and grounded in managing aviation safety and security.
While the lawmaker or any other Nigerian has the right to make case for his people, this may however not go far in the case of the sector involved which is not in anywhere in the world run based on local politics or ethnicity.
Therefore, accusing the minister or whoever of appointing people from a particular area as heads of the various aviation organisations does not hold water.
The accusation can only be tenable if those appointed can be faulted on the basis of their qualifications or if there are more qualified people from another area.
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