NIGERIA REITERATES COMMITMENT TO ICAO IDEALS, ASPIRATIONS
- RE-ELECTED INTO COUNCIL
- ICAO, QATAR OFFER SUPPORT FOR AEROSPACE UNIVERSITY
Nigeria has been re-elected as a Part 2 member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council for another three-year term. Her re-election took place during the plenary session of the 41st General Assembly of ICAO with no fewer than 2,000 Ministers and other high ranking government officials from 167 States in attendance. The ten-day event held in Montreal, Canada between 27th September and 7th October, 2022 saw Nigeria garnering 149 votes to be elected for the 15th consecutive time. By inference, Engr. Mahmoud Sani Ben Tukur remains the face of Nigeria on the council for another three years.
Countries in Part 2 category alongside Nigeria are made up of States which make the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for international civil air navigation. In this group are Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa and Spain.
In his reaction to Nigeria’s victory in the elections, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika who is leader of the Nigerian delegation at the Assembly stated the increased number of countries that supported Nigeria is a testament to Nigeria's rising profile amongst member-nations.
He expressed appreciation for the support that the Aviation sector has continued to enjoy from President Muhammadu Buhari which has resulted in the numerous achievements being celebrated by the global aviation community. According to the Minister, the election is an icing on birthday cake for Nigeria as the re-election took place on the day she is celebrating her independence anniversary.
Conversely, Russia was voted out of the Council following its unpopular invasion of Ukraine. In other words, Russia has been ousted from the premier category of decision-making council by democratic vote of over 170 member states. Suffice to also add that it is the first that a member will be so ousted from the council which membership has been firm and unchanging in the past 70 years.
Russia scored 80 after the vote by over 170 countries, falling short of the 86 votes required to stay on in 36-nation governing council. Prior to her ouster, the Russian federation was in Part 1 of the 36 member which air transport is of chief importance. In the class are such countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States.
By implication, Russia will henceforth lose collaborative opportunities she has been enjoying from other member states. She will not only cease to partake in global aviation events but will also not be subjected to ICAO Regulations any longer. With this state of affairs, no ICAO members will trust the safety of aircraft (including their flights) that operates in Russia so as to allow them operate into their airspace.
In addition, Russia will be barred from flying to any European destinations by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) which is statutorily responsible for ensuring safety and environmental protection in air transport in entire Europe. Also, the United States (US) will withdraw her Category One status conventionally given to countries that have met certain standard of safety prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
…… ICAO, QATAR OFFER SUPPORT FOR AEROSPACE UNIVERSITY
This is even as Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, the ICAO helmsman pledged to collaborate with Nigeria both in the establishment and funding of the African Aviation and Aerospace University (AAAU) in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.
The President gave the assurance when the Minister of aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, accompanied by the Nigerian delegation to the 41st General Assembly of ICAO, paid him a courtesy visit in his Montreal, Canada office.
According to him, ICAO will, at all times, be part of every effort geared towards addressing the manpower needs of member-nations to service and manage the ever-expanding aviation industry.
While describing Nigeria’s decision to establish the university, which is the first of its kind in the continent, as a welcome development, he stated that the university will provide vistas of opportunities for training professional managers for the industry, particularly within African region.
In overt demonstration of his avowed commitment to the landmark project , Mr. Sciacchitano promised to avail himself of the forthcoming ICAO Air Negotiation (ICAN) conference to be hosted by Nigeria in December to personally visit the site of the institution in order to have first-hand idea of the immediate needs, including how and when the organisation can come in.
However, he expressed ICAO’s appreciation to Nigeria for her unwavering commitment to ICAO's ideals and aspirations. This dedication, he says, was manifest when Nigeria accepted to host the ICAN.
In his response, Sen. Sirika expressed Nigeria’s gratitude to Mr. Sciacchitano for his reassurance that the council will offer support for the university project. According to Sen. Sirika, all the requisite regulatory requirements for the establishment of the varsity had been met which culminated in a provisional approval given by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Also on the sidelines of the 41st Assembly, the Sen. Hadi Sirika had a robust meeting with his counterpart in the Qatari's Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti. During the meeting, the Minister pledged his (Qatari's) government's readiness to offer financial support in the establishment and running of the university. Apart from further deepening bilateral relationship between the two countries, Qatar’s readiness to provide some funding in the establishment and running of the African Aviation and Aerospace University will train its manpower as it will be a better option for his country. On this note, they both agreed to meet again in order to develop modalities for their partnership in the project, considering considerable interests shown by ICAO and a few of its members.
In his country statement at the all-important Assembly which he is addressing for a record third time (39th in 2016, 40th in 2019 and 41st in 2022) Assemblies as Nigeria's Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Abubakar Sirika took time to reflect on the landmark developments that have taken place since the 40th Assembly, including achievements as well as setbacks that have been recorded, particularly the unprecedented devastating impact of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) on air travel domestically and globally.
While congratulating Member States, International Organisations and all industry stakeholders for their sheer determination, resoluteness, cooperation and coordination, he commended sterling leadership of ICAO in handling the devastating impact of the pandemic, the type never witnessed since the end of World War II. According to him, it took collective efforts of all to find new and even better ways and strategies to re-start, improve and facilitate the recovery of international air transportation beyond the next triennium. On this account, the Minister acknowledged the ICAO Council Recovery Task Force (CART) for providing excellent guidance on how to resume air transport operations and on the other hand, meeting the public health requirements.
He commended the ICAO Council and the Secretariat for successfully organizing year 2022 Innovation fair which was built upon lessons learned from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and which focused on “Innovation for a resilient International Civil Aviation system”. Sen. Sirika, however, opined strings of successes in technological advancement should be complimented with the modernization of global regulatory frameworks. This, he reasoned, will be effectively done through the liberalization of market access and convergence of regulatory approaches, thereby maximizing the socio-economic benefits of air transport in addition to enhancing the comfort and convenience of consumers of our services.
''Since Nigeria became a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council in 1962, it has continued to make valuable contributions to the ICAO Council’s work and its activities. Nigeria has been playing a key role in supporting the implementation of ICAO Standards, Policies and Programs internationally, and particularly in the African region. We hold our membership of ICAO and its Council reverently and we therefore cherish the opportunity to work together with other Member States in advancing the work of the Organization for greater efficiency and effectiveness, in line with ICAO’s strategic objectives. To this end, Nigeria has ratified all international air law instruments including the Montreal Protocol and amendments to articles 50(a) and 56 of the Chicago Convention. Nigeria is also championing the cause of Aviation Safety, Security and Facilitation in Africa".
According to the Minister, the Nigerian Government, in its bid to ensure continuous compliance with ICAO Standards and imperativeness of meeting the challenges of a rapidly growing air transport sector, the country has unabatedly continued to maintain properly funded agencies to enhance aviation safety; to ensure not only effective, efficient provision and management of infrastructure in all aspects of the industry but also to guarantee its sustainable development.
These agencies are an autonomous Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for providing aviation safety and economic oversight of the industry; the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) for providing air navigation services; the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for administration and management of all airports; and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) for providing meteorological services, including aeronautical meteorology. To transform the Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB-N) to Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) to undertake a multi-modal transport safety investigation responsibility, a bill was most recently passed by the Nigerian parliament.
Not left out was the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), the nation’s main training organization, which was established in 1964 in partnership with ICAO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Deservedly the College was recently certified as an ICAO Regional Training Centre of Excellence, running ICAO Training Courses, in addition to its primary function of providing ab initio and advanced technical and managerial training. While disclosing that the Government of Nigeria recently approved the establishment of an African Aviation and Aerospace University in Abuja to cater for research and development as well as the development of higher level manpower, he, at the same time, solicited the support of ICAO under its No Country Left Behind (NCLB) initiative for the laudable project.
He also took time to highlight various ICAO programmes that Nigeria has implemented, synergized with other States and supported. These include the implementation of the Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP), the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) and the Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP). Beyond this, Nigeria has seconded auditors to support various ICAO programmes in the areas of safety and security over a long time, including contributing experts on various ICAO technical panels and working groups.
On the continent of Africa, the Minister stated that Nigeria has continued to host the Regional Safety Oversight Organisation, the Banjul Accord Group Aviation Safety Oversight Organization (BAGASOO) since the inception and has remained its major contributor. In the same vein it has continued to support the activities of the Regional Accident Investigation Agency the Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA).
The head of Nigerian delegation disclosed that, in Nigeria's effort to support ICAO’s work and activities in the Air transport field and promote economic regulation as the industry recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, it has donated substantial sum to the ICAO voluntary Air Transport Fund. This is in addition to making significant financial contribution to the Safety and Human Resource Development Funds (HRDF). Besides, Nigeria has hosted several ICAO meetings, workshops and other programmes. These included the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Symposium (RPAS), the 3rd ICAO World Aviation Forum (IWAF) and the seventh meeting of AFI Aviation week. The Country will also be hosting the 14th edition of the ICAO Air Services Negotiation Event (ICAN) from 5th to 9th December 2022.
According to him, Nigeria has been a great supporter of liberalization and has continued to champion the liberalization efforts in Africa through the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) and the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). He also commended African States and African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) for their renewed and vigorous commitment to the development of Air Transportation in Africa, especially the implementation of SAATM. In his informed views, this will not only enhance air connectivity in the continent but will also promote tourism, trade, commerce, integration and economic development. It will, in addition, contribute to the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in accordance with African Union agenda 2063.
His address did not end without making a passionate appeal to ICAO to continue to encourage and support regional liberalization efforts, as they could be used as incentives to achieving global multilateral agreement on liberalization of market access. He disclosed that Nigeria’s efforts on liberalization have significantly increased the operations of foreign and domestic airlines and utilization of our airports, resulting in an annual traffic growth of over eight percent (8%). According to the Minister, passenger numbers have quadrupled; number of airports doubled; number of airlines doubled; and catering and other business greatly increased, such that Aviation before COVID became the fastest growing sector of Nigerian economy since President Buhari assumed mantle of leadership.
Speaking further, Sen. Sirika mentioned that it is Nigeria's firm determination to make the country the most competitive hub of the African region. This also includes making air travel the preferred mode of transportation, by exploring potent advantage of Nigeria's population of over 215 million, 923,768 square kilo meter land mass, at the center of the continent with rising middle class and modest formal GDP of $450billion.
He added that Nigeria is not oblivion that achieving these would require a robust industry that is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally friendly, with modern and adequate infrastructure. Hence, the government did not let down her guard and has been succeeding thus far. The Government of Nigeria has continued to make significant investments in the provision of aviation infrastructure and facilities for safe, secure, environmentally friendly, and sustainable economic development of international civil aviation. Nigeria will also keep supporting the ideals and aspirations of ICAO, and the achievements of its strategic objectives, in collaboration with other member States of the Organization.
With regard to Aviation Security (AVSEC), Nigeria has continued to record significant improvements in this area with the installation of modern security equipment at our airports, continuous implementation of our national aviation security programme and up-to-date training for Aviation Security Personnel. Sen. Sirika also informed the Assembly that the Training School of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has certified by ICAO to train AVSEC personnel both in Nigeria and in the West African Sub-region.
He added that Nigeria has continued to participate in the ICAO Public Key Directory (ICAO PKD), and to support ICAO’s efforts to provide assistance to other African States in their programmes to introduce e-passport.
In the area of environmental protection, he disclosed that Nigeria is voluntarily participating in the pilot stage of ICAO’s Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and has provided capacity training to many African States in support of the CORSIA scheme under the ICAO ACT-CORSIA programme. Also, Nigeria is a member of the Technical Advisory Body (TAB), a body that make recommendations to the Council on the eligible emissions units for use by the CORSIA as well as being a member of the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection CAEP), a technical committee of the ICAO Council established in 1983.
In closing, Sen. Sirika expressed very warm compliments and felicitations from President Muhammadu Buhari, and the good people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He also joined other delegations to congratulate the President of the 41st Assembly, Ms. Poppy Khoza and other elected officials of the Assembly.
The Minister also congratulated the President of the ICAO Council, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchiatano, the Secretary General of ICAO, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar and the entire ICAO Secretariat for a well-organized 41st Session of the ICAO Assembly. Also, he thanked the government and people of Canada for the kind hospitality accorded Nigerian delegation throughout their stay in this beautiful city of Montreal that has become a second home to all aviators around the world.