As 2023 draws to an end, it is gladdening that there was no Civilian Plane Crash recorded. This is noteworthy for a Country that used to with witness such mishaps at intervals.
In the Aviation Sector, safety is the ultimate.
In spite of the success story, some other challenges persist. Experts and Airport Users say the state of Infrastructure at the Airports need to improve.
In 2023 many Airlines groaned under high Operational Costs which have stifled their expansion.
Flight delays and or cancellations, poor Customer Care, epileptic Cooling System, and Conveyor Belt Issues, Poor Funding, and Insecurity are among other challenges experienced in the Sector.
Some of these challenges pose a major threat to the smooth Operations of the Airports and hinder them from handling certain Services.
Recently, Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that many Airports cannot handle Night Flights because of some of the highlighted challenges.
“All manners of security risks including kidnapping, robbery and others are evolving rapidly in many parts of the Country.
“The evolving security challenges make Night Operations dangerous because many Airports, by reason of Construction and Operational requirements are located mostly on the outskirts of Towns’’, he told NAN.
Some Stakeholders argue that Aviation should not be seen as a mere Sector but as a Business Model capable of generating Revenue for those operating in it.
They say that it must be made competitive with the required Infrastructure on ground to make the Business thrive.
An Aviation Expert, Olumide Ohunayo, said Nigeria has the highest number of Domestic Airlines in Africa, not by number of Aircraft but by Registered Operators.
“In the number of Equipment, we are behind; we have the highest Attrition Rate. We have crossed the ICAO Registration Process, our Airlines are IOSA Certified.
“We have the highest Attrition Rates, as our Airlines are not viable out there. Those operating are yet to obtain profit margin. We have been absent on the International Routes despite numerous BASA in place.
“We have increased the number of Airports in the Country over the years, although most of them are under used because of the limitation of Sunset Airport Policies which has reduced usage“, the Vanguard quoted him as saying.
BASA is an Air Transport Agreement between two Countries that allows Designated Airlines to operate Commercial Flight, covering Transportation of Passengers and Cargoes.
To achieve that objective, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Buhari Abdulatif, says it is important for the Federal Government to improve Aviation Business Environment to make it attractive to Foreign and Local Investors.
Abdulatif, told a Retreat organised by the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development recently at Warri, Delta State that Government should address the issue of high Cost of Aviation Fuel and other Operation Logistics.
The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, said the Government is conscious of the need to upgrade the Sector to make it the Hub of Air Travel in Africa.
According to him, the Aviation Industry is a main key for Sustainable Growth and Development of all other Sectors in the Nigerian Economy.
He said the Federal Government was ready to intensify efforts through Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) to tackle the challenges militating against the Industry.
Keyamo said his priority Agenda would be fine-tuned into Actionable Programme and projects by all Department and Agencies under the Ministry.
“These Agenda are: to ensure strict compliance with Safety Regulations and continuous upward movement of Nigeria’s Rating by the ICAO.
“Others are support for the growth and sustenance of Local Airline Businesses whilst holding them to the highest International Standards in the Aviation Industry, and improvement of Infrastructure in the Aviation Industry.
“It also includes the development of Human Capacity within the Industry and optimising Revenue Generation for the Federal Government, “ recent Media Reports quoted him as saying.
In the coming years, Stakeholders in the Industry expect the Federal Government to also leverage International Agreements and Instruments to stimulate growth in the Nation’s Aviation Industry.
“Government must direct the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to monitor closely the Foreign Exchange Earnings on Commercial Aviation including the Earnings on Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA)“ says John Ojukitu, Secretary General of Aviation Round Table, in a Media Interview.
Some Operators in the Sector canvass the review of BASA to enable Government identify Areas that need improvement and renegotiate such Terms.
“Currently, the Multiple Entry Points and Frequencies of Foreign Airlines are commercially disadvantageous to Nigerian Airlines and do not achieve fair reciprocity“, says Nick Fadugba, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), African Aviation Services.
Fadugba who is also the Chairman of the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) said this during a Webinar.
As 2024 approaches, Stakeholders expect that the challenges of the past years including underutilisation of Airports, dearth of Professionals, Financial Instability leading to bankruptcy of Airlines would be addressed.
Doing these will enable the Sector fly at the right altitude.
Credit NAN/Gabriel Agbeja
On November11 Residents of Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi will return to the Poll to elect new Governors that will run the Affairs of the States for the next four years in an off Election Circle Exercise.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is expected to conduct the Elections in 10, 510 Polling Units spread across the three States.
In Bayelsa, the Election will take place in 2,244 Polling Units, while it will hold in 3,508 Polling Units in Kogi. Imo has 4, 758 Polling Units where the Election will hold.
INEC has targeted about 5.4 million Voters for the Elections, with Bayelsa having 1.05 million Voters; while 2.4 million Voters are expected in Imo. Kogi has about two million Voters.
INEC has been engaged in series of activities in the past few months toward ensuring the successful conduct of the Elections.
However, some Stakeholders have expressed concerns over the ability of the Electoral Umpire to conduct hitch-free Elections in these States, going by the experiences of the 2023 General Polls.
Although the Umpire insists that it did a good job in the Polls, many Nigerians, particularly those on the Opposition side think otherwise.
They cite the some logistics challenges, especially late arrival of Election Materials and Election Officials in Polling Units as examples of areas that need improvement.
There is also the reoccurring problem of malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) in Polling Units, leading to delay in the accreditation of Voters and voting.
In some Polling Units, voting was delayed for many hours, as Voters remain on queues to perform their Civic Rights of electing their Leaders.
Although INEC has reassured of its resolve to address the challenges, Stakeholders say the Commission must buckle up, if it wants to conduct hitch-free, free, fair and credible Elections.
Yabagi Sani, the National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) tasked INEC to strengthen its capacities to ensure hitch-free Elections in the three States.
He expressed optimism that INEC would strive to rebuild trust between itself, Political Parties and the Electorate by ensuring hitch-free Polls.
“We in IPAC believe that INEC has learned some lessons and they know that there is a huge deficit of trust between the Commission and Nigerians.
“This happened because INEC was over ambitious and wanted things to work very well during the Presidential Election, but underlined conditions did not allow them to achieve the high standards they set for themselves.
“So INEC will have to go back to its drawing board and take a look at things that went wrong and correct them.
“And this doesn’t mean that they should throw away their Technological Advancements because they served their purpose and there is nothing wrong with the use of Technology,” he said.
Sani said that the use of Technology was not the problem of INEC in the conduct of the 2023 General Elections but the conducts of its Officials, Political Parties and their Agents, as well as the conduct of Nigerians.
He advised the Commission to improve on its Technology usage in order to set a better standard for Nigeria in the Global scene as the largest and strongest Democratic Country in Africa.
‘’INEC must show a good example in the November11 Off-Cycle Governorship Elections, it should show that we have Technology and we can use them perfectly,’’ he said.
Sani said that all hands must be on deck to ensure that Electoral Officers are not pressured by Governors to falsify results in the Elections.
“As we approach the Off- Cycle Elections in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi States in November, all hands must be on deck to ensure the Resident Electoral Commissioners and Returning Officers are not pressured by some Governors and INEC itself to falsify results in their States.
“The Adamawa State 2023 Governorship Election result declaration saga and the embarrassment caused INEC and the Nation at large is a case in point.
“The prosecution of the Adamawa REC in Court by INEC is highly desirable and commendable.
“Equally desirable is action by all relevant Security Agencies to check the misuse of State Resources in violation of the Electoral Act 2022,” he said.
Hamzat Lawal, the Chief Executive Officer, Connected Development (CODE), a Civil Society Organisation, corroborated Sani’s claim, urging INEC to improve on its logistics management, ahead of the November Elections.
Lawal, also the Founder, Follow the Money, said that INEC must strive hard to close the logistics gaps observed in the 2023 General Elections to achieve a successful Off-Cycle Elections.
“If we in CODE are saddled with the responsibility of undertaking Electoral Management, first, we will invest heavily in Logistics, which is one impediment.
“The second is Human Capital Development and training of Ad Hoc Staff in time, not a few weeks to Elections, this is because these are two major gaps we faced in the last Elections.
“This is an Off Circle Election so there should be no pressure on the Commission,” he said.
Emmanuel Njoku, the Director, Democracy and Governance, CODE, said there is a need for INEC to seek for more Electoral Reforms to tackle some issues in organising Elections in Nigeria.
Bayo Balogun, a Member of the Yiaga Africa Observer Mission at the just concluded Liberia’s Election, urged INEC to take lessons from the smooth conduct of the Election, toward improving on the November11 Off-Cycle Elections.
Balogun, is also the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters.
He said that INEC needs to change the Format of its Ballot Papers to include Photographs and Names of Candidates to improve the quality of Electoral Preferences and reduce Invalidated Votes.
“We also noticed that the Liberian National Elections Commission (NEC) displayed high devotion to Rules and Procedures throughout the Elections.
“Polling Officials displayed excellent knowledge of the Rules and enforced the Guidelines at all Election levels,” he said.
Balogun also urged National Assembly to strengthen the Electoral Laws by making Electronic Transmission of Results mandatory in future Elections in Nigeria.
He said this should include the upload of Polling Unit-Level Results and Results Sheets at different levels of Results Collation.
Balogun urged Political Stakeholders in Nigeria to demonstrate firm commitment to Democracy and Nation-Building by upholding National Values such as Patriotism, Integrity and Public Interest in Electoral Politics.
Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman, acknowledged some challenges in the conduct of the last Elections as the Commission is working hard to ensure that the Elections are free, fair and credible.
“We are giving our words to Nigerians that we must open Polling Units at 8.30a.m on the dot on the Election Day.
“Therefore, Registration Area Centres (RACs) must be activated for commencement of Voting at 8.30a.m.,” Yakubu said at the Kogi Local Government (LGA) Office of the Commission during INEC Mock Accreditation for the Election in Lokoja on October14.
He said one of the main concerns of the Commission is the prevailing security challenge in the Country.
Yakubu said that the Commission is working with the Security Agencies to provide Secured Environment for peaceful and credible Elections.
“Wherever you go in Nigeria, you are sure to see two Government Offices. One is INEC. You will see an INEC Office in the LGA headed by an Electoral Officer, an Electoral Officer (EO).
You will also see the Police Office headed by a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for the Local Government.
“So, we are everywhere working together. And I’m happy that we are working together as we prepare for the Elections,“ he said.
Yakubu said that INEC plans to deploy 46,084 Officials comprising of both Permanent and Ad Hoc Staff for the conduct of the Elections in the three States.
“While we are leaving no stone un-turned in other areas of preparation for the Governorship Elections, the Commission plans to deploy 46,084 Regular and Ad Hoc Staff for Exercise.
“We are also finalising arrangements for Vehicles and Boats for Land and Maritime movement of Personnel and Materials,” he said.
Yakubu said that such massive deployment requires a Secured Environment which he said was beyond the Commission’s immediate responsibility.
“On our part, we will continue to deepen our engagement with the Security Agencies and more Meetings are planned in the next few days.
“Similarly, the Commission will hold series of Meetings with Stakeholders at the National Level in addition to ongoing engagements at the State Levels,” he said.
The INEC Chairman expressed confidence that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) would perform better in the November11 Elections.
“Last week, we conducted a Mock Accreditation involving Actual Voters in Designated Polling Units in the three States; we had two objectives for the Exercise.
“Firstly is to test the efficacy of the BVAS for Biometric Authentication of Voters; secondly, to upload the Result to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV). Both Tests were successful.
“We look forward to improved performance of the BVAS in Voter Accreditation and Result uploading in the forthcoming Elections,” he said.
Yakubu said that all Non-Sensitive Materials for the Elections had been delivered to the three States, so far.
He said that the Elections would involve 5,409,438 Registered Voters in 10,510 Polling Units spread across 649 Electoral Wards in 56 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
He said that other preparatory activities, including Training, were on course, while valuable lessons learnt from the 2023 General Elections would be used to improve performance of the November11 Elections.
As preparations for the Elections hit top gears it is important that all INEC Personnel, Stakeholders and Politicians in the affected States cooperate with INEC to ensure hitch-free Polls. Failure should not be an option.
Credit: Ali Baba-Inuwa/NAN