Abednego Galadima, NAAPE President
The newly elected president of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Comrade Abednego Galadima at the recent “Unveiling NAAPE Compendium of 50 Outstanding Nigerian Aircraft Pilots and Engineers” In Lagos bares his mind on the newly unveiled Nigerian Air and the benefits it brings. Galadima spoke on other initiatives he is trying to put in place in favour of unemployed pilots and engineers and to better rank safety performance of aviation activities in the country. Excerpts:
This is your first event as NAAPE President, how do you feel about it?
I feel honoured and elated. Very excited. The massive support from the players and captains of the industry and stakeholders. The turnout at the event tells us it is a good and well appreciated.
Recognising 50 Nigerian Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, what informed this?
What informed this is that, we feel there is the need for us to create opportunities for mentoring. With the ageing workforce in the industry, we realised that when we highlight performances of the excellent professionals among us, the young ones will be able to key into it and learn from. And with the growing unemployment of pilots and engineers, we believe that some of these things in the spirit of excellence will give them inspiration. We want to show case to the world, especially in the industry that the abuse of expatriate quota, not being complied with, is not based on any justifiable reason- because we have great men and women, professionals that have passed through the industry and brought it to where it is. You can remember the award we gave the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Usman Muhtar. One of the qualities he demonstrated was that, for the first time, we were able to achieve the United States Federal Aviation Administration (USFAA) Audit without single expatriate consultant. We have come of age as a body and as individual pilots and engineers in the industry. We are trying to showcase our own. For goodness sake, all the people we awarded deserve it. It was a fair award across board. It is not a jamboree. It is a true reflection of what we feel of the individuals that have toiled and worked hard. Our hope is that it will create inspiration in those that are even outside the profession-the young ones, to come and join the profession. We want to grow the profession through that means.
In growing the profession, how are you handling the issue of unemployed pilots, and gathering more flying hours after graduation?
At some point we have a case where we have over 200-250 unemployed associate pilots. Pilots and engineers, over 600 which is not good. The reason why it is a problem. You know the rate of unemployment in the country. This one is particularly a problem, because these two professions require you to be current and most of the ones that were trained, were trained with huge sums. So the investment will just be lost if they do not retain currency, because they will not be employable again without currency. That is why we are advocating that government do something. In fact, we have put in a proposal to a number of our partners, we are still looking for more partners to fund it. Just like what the government is doing for the unemployed through the N-Power programme. If that can be extended to aviation, NAAPE is willing to partner with anybody such that if NCAT is given some money, the young pilots will go and build hours flying aircraft there and also use simulator as well. It will help them build more hours to gather more experience and expertise. And then for the engineers too, we are putting a scheme in place in that proposal, where these people can be deployed in various aviation entities where we have senior engineers that will take them through On The Job training and guide them properly. These are the things we are doing. We have a proposal just as I have said and we are approaching the Ministry of Transportation (Aviation Sector) with Local Content Development Board. We will approach Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), Industrial Training Fund (ITF) and approach their conscience.
What can NCAA do better despite the safety record achievement of the country so far?
We expect NCAA to continue to provide the necessary leadership in service such as navigation and communication. If they can fix the runway issue especially the one on 18 Left before it causes any major incidence, and other relevant complaints here and there. On our part NAAPE we announce the institution of an annual aviation safety awards going forward. With this initiative, we would have a technical board in place to review safety consciousness performances and safety practices in aviation, the culture. This is for both private and public organisations and then we will give them some rankings. We believe the initiative will entrench and reward safety culture. We are going to do that across board. We want to call on stakeholders to cooperate with us on this programme and partner with us, because it is a token that we are giving back as a body into the industry.
Nigerian Air has been unveiled. How are you as NAAPE keying into the project?
The project has our total support. Every investment in the airline business is always welcomed by NAAPE. For us, it is more than the National Carrier, we know that it will create jobs and our members stand to benefit more in that regard. We want that that National Carrier came in yesterday. We expect that due process must be followed and transparency should be harnessed. On the plight of former staff of Nigerian Airways, I want to seize this opportunity to call on government to please look into settling their arrears.
Are you as a body approaching the National Assembly on behalf of Nigeria Airways workers?
To be honest with you, the three key unions in the aviation industry, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) have done a lot in that regard. We have approached at the ministerial level. We have engaged the Honourable Minister of State for Aviation on it as well. We are approaching the National Assembly and we are reaching where we should touch on the issue and we are getting positive responses.
As a body (NAAPE), what do you expect from the government to make the industry better?
As a body we expect that the aviation roadmap project should be adhered to. Particularly, we want to see a situation where a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility comes to place, so that this huge capital flight we experience from maintenance aircraft would be checked. In so doing, it would improve on the experiences of our members. We want to see that one (MRO) come quickly. In terms of legislation, we want to see a situation where more is given to General Aviation where investors will find reasons to invest. Where a General Aviation operator is expected to go through the same process of getting Air Operators Certificate (AOC) with commercial operators defiles logic. In this days where we talk about small medium scale businesses, I think that should be factored into the scheme of things.
Are you discussing with the Minister of Aviation on unemployed pilots and engineers as Nigerian Air is coming up?
Like I said, we are putting an initiative in place. We hope that it would be looked into well. More than that, if the National Carrier comes, it is a plus to us. While they absorb some, I am sure and there will be some migration from one airline to the other. It is our hope that some of the unemployed will find somewhere to fit in. They are talking about 5 aircraft to start the operation. You know that that will require a minimum of 50 pilots. The spiral effect will require more, 100 people engaged.
I will always call on our people to be patriotic. The issue of compliance to Executive Order 5, giving Nigeria jobs to Nigerians is key to us. It is not justifiable to have an airline and just go and be bringing expatriates, does not speak well of our patriotism. We expect that this patriotic zeal, the investors should have. I want our social partners to see us as such. We are partners in progress, not competitors. We are not competing with them. We are not in NAAPE to pull down businesses. No. When I assumed office, my dealings and my philosophy is always aiming at synergistic win-win. Win for the employer, win for the employee. Let them be rest assured that we are going to be partners. Once we engage, we understand ourselves more. The erroneous perception on the union is in the past.