Contrary to notion expressed in some quarters that the apex regulatory body,  Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is irretrievably tied to the apron strings of the supervising Ministry of Aviation, both bodies synergise to enhance growth and development of Nigeria's air transport industry.

This clarification was made by the Director General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Shuaibu Nuhu during his maiden webinar chat with the League of Aviation and Airports Correspondents (LAAC) Media Forum at the Aviation House, Lagos.

According to the NCAA helmsman, the Ministry of Aviation is an indispensable arm in the value chain of the country's aviation industry, facilitating requisite government support for some critical air transport policy directives which would have hitherto impaired its regulatory oversight mandate.

In his words, “As aviation goes beyond NCAA; there is Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (Nimet), Accident Investigation Board (AIB) and Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and then you have the private sector, the airlines, ground handling company so there has to be some connection between us and the ministry. You cannot say because we are independent in implementing regulations without interference, we can totally isolate ourselves”

These invaluable interventions by the Ministry ably superintended by the Honourable Minister, Sen. Hadi Sirika have helped the Authority in making it more functional and more virile.

Explaining further the critical role the ministry had played in making the industry more virile, the DG said, “There are some regulations that without the political support of the ministry, it will be very difficult to implement those regulations. In the past, when aircraft are grounded, big men went over above the ministry, they even went to the Villa and they have those decisions taken by NCAA reversed”

This anomaly, he maintained, the Minister had fiercely fought to put an end to, and the regulatory functions are currently being dispensed without fear or favour. According to the DG, “this time around, it is not so. We implement our regulations irrespective of who is involved and the support of the minister, the political support has made our life easier within our regulations. In view of the foregoing, there had not been any interference from the ministry but a synergy between the regulatory Authority and its supervisory Ministry of Aviation for the growth and development of the sector. Therefore, “anybody that wants us to divorce completely from the ministry is not being realistic, it is Ministry of aviation”.

Some of the landmark interventions of the ministry through the Minister were issue bordering on dearth of foreign exchange (forex) and inability of foreign airlines to repatriate their sales proceeds of about $600 million in arrears. It took the intervention of the Minister who influenced Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) towards ensuring not only prompt release to affected airlines but also making forex reservation to operators.

This is just as negotiating how loan facilities could be extended to the industry operators especially the airlines at a very low interest rate devoid of additional burden to the operators. “In the airline industry, the profit margin is very minimal, if you make five percent (5%) profit margin in the business, you are considered to have done excellently well. When airlines go borrowing at a very high interest rate which we know is very high in Nigeria, If my profit margin is 5%, explain to me how can I break even and pay them and make profit if l took a loan at 20%?”, he rhetorically asked.

At the peak of aviation fuel scarcity (otherwise known as JET A1), the Minister used his political clout by having very high-level consultation with the management of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on a special kind of production arrangement that would make Jet A1 readily available, thereby making business easier for various shades of investors in the industry.

With the support of the Ministry, 5% Value Added Tax (VAT) strangely paid by the industry was cancelled and waivers secured for duties on aircraft spare parts, etc.