The Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in this interview, spoke on the recent controversies trailing the 5 per cent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC), the accident-free years in Nigeria and the recent activities of the Consumer Protection Consumers (CPC) in the sector as it relates to protection of air travellers among others. Excerpts:
What is your say on the recent activities of Consumer Protection Council (CPC) in aviation matters as it relates to infringements on rights of consumers by airlines?
First of all, I will like to say that we are all working towards a common goal, which is the satisfaction of consumers. We were all set up by the government and we will try as much as possible to work together to achieve the same goal. Having said that, aviation industry is one of the most regulated industries in the world, we operate under the standards and recommended practises set up by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). We have annexes to the convention that we have to abide by, we also have our own regulations following some of these civil aviation Acts and the international civil aviation annexes and documents.
Aviation is international in nature and there are several treaties, bilateral air services, and other agreements, Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) and other activities especially commercial activities. So, the role of CPC should be complementary with that of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). As I said earlier, we have to contend with other international treaties, MoUs treaties and agreements signed by Nigeria. CPC should focus more on other areas that are not so regulated like aviation.
What is your view on the controversies raised by the 5 per cent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) collected by NCAA on behalf of other agencies and the allegation of inaccurate data rendered by the agency?
We have made our response public on that. The person who was making the allegation was basing his figures on certain assumptions, which are not the actual. We have our ways of billing and it’s in line with the provision of the Act and our own regulations and we still stand by the explanations we gave.
We have been trying to automate, we have a platform, which is automation for billing and we have been working with the airline operators to be on that platform for transparency for the entire parastatals because all the agencies are on that platform for them to be able to see the billing and also the collection. It is one thing to bill and another one is to collect what you have billed for.
Currently, we have one or two airlines that are fully on the system and a number of others are at various stages of being on the system. One has opted for another automated platform, which is an alternative to this; this is the Bill Settlement Plan (BSP) under the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
For the agencies that are benefiting from the 5 per cent TSC, we normally send out on a monthly basis how much has been realised and also let them know how much is due to them and how much is actually transferred to them. So, I don’t know where the allegation is coming from. And I know we have been doing that for a very long time. If there is any difference, the agency or agencies involved can come forward for reconciliation and see where the differences are.
So, the system we intend to continue to use will be transparent because it is automated we try to reduce the human interface, efficiency would be higher and there will be less likelihood of underhand dealings and it is also in line with the Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government.
However, we have never had any differences with any of the agencies that get from this 5 per cent TSC in the past. What I am saying is that we are very open and if any agencies believed they are being short-changed, they can come forward for reconciliation, but so far, we have not had any cause to go through that.
In the past four years, there has not been any accident to commercial aircraft in Nigeria, how does NCAA hope to sustain this?
Let me first of all thank God that we have not had any major accidents in the past years. However, we have a lot of inputs in preventing accidents from happening. Whatever we do through regulations is in-line with the ICAO’s eight critical elements; robust regulation, legislation, organisation, manpower and training among others and if you remember recently, we retained the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category One Status and all that was done in-house because we have the required manpower and we are not going to rest on our oars; we will continue to train and also attract experience manpower in sufficient numbers as required by ICAO.
We will also provide all the necessary working tools and as I am talking to you presently, we are automations our systems to reduce the workloads of our people and improve efficiencies in the system. The area of surveillance is also there and it is one of the key areas to sustaining this accident-free period and where there are infractions, we will also ensure compliance with our regulations and we will also sanction where we have to.
We have been sanctioning, we have a whole data base, which is a requirement by ICAO as part of the eight critical elements – compliance and enforcement.
Sir, are you not bothered abut some minor and major incidents that seem to have characterised 2018 so far?
Let me say that the year 2018 started with so many incidences and even accidents worldwide. Unfortunately, even though we have some incidences here, none has resorted into any fatality or any serious injury. Of course, when you have occurrences, incidences, they are to give you an early warning probably something more to come if you don’t do anything. Of course, we are all humans and have our own inadequacies and that is why accidents or incidents happen, but our job here in NCAA is to prevent those accidents or incidents from happening and that we do through the safety oversight systems as defined by ICAO. So, we take note of those incidences that have happened, we are going to learn from those incidences to ensure that we don’t have any unforeseen accident. So, we are intensifying our surveillance especially the ramping aspect of it; checking, rechecking, training, re-training, inspections as much as possible to ensure that whatever happens is in the past.
What is NCAA doing to ensure compliance with the safety recommendations released by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB)?
First of all, let me say that we have been having harmonious working relationship with AIB; don’t forget that my last posting was at AIB before I was posted to NCAA. So, I understand the importance of implementing safety regulations because the aim of investigation of incidence and accident is to learn lessons and we learn lessons; understanding how and why and knowing those things have happened and the safety recommendations. Safety recommendations until implemented may not help.
While AIB has the responsibility to make those safety recommendations, we have a duty to monitor and ensure compliance and we have been meeting with AIB through different levels; one on implementation and secondly on the effectiveness of those safety recommendations. So, we have been working hand-in-hand with AIB to ensure we sustain and improve the current safety level because we have a few incidences already this year.
Why do we usually have discrepancies on the data released by NCAA and other government agencies especially the National Bureau of Statistics?
I can’t tell you why we have the discrepancies, but the fact is that we have to collect aviation data and everybody collects data based on the use for that data. So, I can’t comment much on the NBS data for the industry because I’m yet to see it. I won’t be able to say so much on that and I don’t know the basis of their own statistics they have.
What are your programmes for aviation industry in the remaining part of 2018?
Whatever what we are going to deploy, it is to sustain the zero accident that we have been talking about. We want to improve safety in the system by complying with the all the eight critical elements of the safety oversight system and this would be enhanced to ensure we achieve the sustained level of safety within our aviation system in Nigeria and in line with ICAO.