‘How aviation master plan will develop sector’
Mr. Mazi Nnamdi Udoh, Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), in this interview with Kelvin Osa-Okunbor speaks on the pros and cons of the aviation master plan, among others
What should we expect in 2014?
We have a roadmap, and there is no other road other than the one that is in the map. In 2014, what we should expect is improvement in what we have been able to do in 2013. In other words, we have to build on what is on ground. What we are doing right now is to make sure that every airline files its flight plan online.
The airlines have also requested that we try to centralise it; you file your flight plan, you pay, then someone takes it to the tower and then we intervene at the Aeronautical Information Service Centre (AIS), the commercial and the tower. So when you pay in Lagos; say you are going to Owerri, the man in Owerri will not ask you for a hard copy of your flight plan. You go to NAMA portal first and file your flight plan; airlines are used to the hard paper kind of thing. Second, we need to improve the power situation. We had thought that by now, poor power supply will be a thing of the past. Like yesterday (Thursday), there was total power failure which may have affected most parts of Lagos. We are trying to adopt solar system to power our facilities, even for the air field lighting. Third is communication and surveillance, which we have firmly established with basic infrastructures. We are going further in the wide area of augmentation through the ADSB and the multilateration system for the Niger Delta.
On one stop shop payment
We listen to airlines’ complaints. The issue even went to the Senate where the relevant committee met and came out with a report. Now we are now going to call the stakeholders to another meeting. But take for example Akure or Ibadan airport, where there is no general aviation activity as such, when they use the facilities, they won’t want to pay that kind of general aviation terminal fee. We buy into that so that when you go to such an airport, it is not necessary to pay. What we are saying is that when you pay in a one-stop shop, on your return leg, you don’t pay since it is one manifest. So when people go to places like Ibadan, Akure, Minna where you don’t have much activities like the general aviation terminal, they will not pay the general aviation terminal airport fee and, of course, operators like Julius Berger or state governments who don’t use their aircraft for hire will also not pay what is called commercial tax but there must be a commensurate insurance file with NCAA to show that their planes are not for hire.
Presently, we are trying to graduate the next class in air traffic control and PPR. There are about three of them doing what is called flying hours completing. They are completing hours on the simulator. We have also done an internal advert that people with microbiology background and IT who like to be air traffic controllers can apply; it is mainly for people who want to change into air traffic services. For engineers, of course the last batch of the five years maintenance arrangement with the manufacturers of some of our facilities is going to be finalised this year with the last 12 engineers. So we will now start sending them to South Africa and any other place where there is room for engineering training; of course the regular ones in navigational aids or air field lighting will remain. Our budget for training remains wide and, as you know, you can’t spend everything on training so that have money to spend on other areas.
NAMA survives on IGR. I make my money and, of course, we also have to appropriate it and have authorisation for payment. For manpower and development, we are spending like N500 million this year and we wish we can even spend more because training is very critical to us. I have mentioned the solar air field lighting that is already in place.
Nobody is talking about NITEL; everybody is on GSM. But every communication is based on atmospheric level either hydropher or the satellite-based. GSM is satellite-based, so the reason we have engineers is to address communication surveillance and navigational problems. As we speak, total VHF coverage in Nigeria is available. Of course if there is power failure, someone will fix it, if there is frequency deficiency, someone will fix it. But how would anybody have expected that a brand new aeroplane built by Airbus crashed? We are confident that the 1273 which is the southern frequency and the 1209 which is the northern frequency based in Sokoto and Maiduguri are in order, but once in a while Maiduguri may not have power for one week or two. When we had that kind of challenge, it affected us. Now the Borno governor has donated a generator to us and we have re-opened the airport, so communication problem between pilots and the control tower blamed on lack of communication has been conquered.
The five per cent ticket sales charge that customers pay to airlines, the airlines pay to an account domiciled in the NCAA and the director general has the responsibility to sign the sharing as approved by the accounting officers, that is, the minister and the permanent secretary. The money is shared between NAMA, FAAN, AIPB, NCAT and NIMET. AIPB does not make money, NCAT too doesn’t make more money; you also know that NIMET is part of this group. And you could see that the direct contact with the airline is NAMA but NCAA is collecting the money. Any airline which wants to fly comes to NAMA to file a flight plan; if it is coming from abroad, its agents come to NAMA to get clearance. NAMA collects the money; FAAN now gets its landing fee, NCAA gets its share, NAMA gets its own, NCAT gets, NIMET and AIPB get and that is one fund that everybody gets something from.
On the issues between airlines and the aviation authorities
You know the Senate said they have not been briefed enough, so we should go and harmonise and, like I have always said, the customer will always be right. The more airlines I have in Nigeria, the better for me, so that I don’t have to stop those airlines owing me from flying. Even we welcome airlines from West African countries. Cameroon airlines came to pay because they wanted to start flying over our space. So I don’t believe that we have to ground an airline, some of them owing are still flying; outside that, one stop shop will always be a solution. When you pay the money, nobody will ask you any question because there is linkage between the agencies and the means of payment.
On the augmentation system
In the Niger Delta, we have finished the survey, we have the report. We are deploying the LDSB and multilateration which come under the augmentation system. Now we are going to need this also around Maiduguri and Yola airports because of the security issue since to fly airplanes there, nobody, except the military, knows how operations are going.
The bulk of what we have been able to do to move the aviation sector forward has been due to the support we have been receiving from the minister, Princess Stella Oduah who is always encouraging us to work optimally notwithstanding the challenges that we face. She is obviously impatient to get things in place in the sector. And I can assure you we won’t disappoint her
On how NAMA is handling recent complaints by some operators
I think it is the issue of harmonisation of charges. The matter is being resolved. A committee was set to examine the matter.
You know they went to the Senate, now the committee has met and they have finalised the report.
Now we are now going to call them to another broader meeting. But take for example, a place like Akure or Ibadan, where there is no general aviation activity at such when they use the facilities, they won’t want to pay that kind of general aviation terminal kind of payment.
There are peculiar issues and cases that are being examined concerning payment of charges in some airports by general aviation or charter airlines.
We are also buying into that so that when we go to such an airport it is not necessary that you will pay special charges.
Our position is that when you pay in a one stop shops he issue of how many flights and which leg of the flight will be sorted out.
There are issues concerning the modality of payment for some category of flight, which is captured in the manifest.
For instance, some operators who want to go to places like Ibadan, Akure, Minna where there are no much activities and there general aviation terminals, they will not be able to pay that general aviation terminal airport fee and of course airlines or operators like say Julius Berger, aircraft owned by governors who don’t use that aircraft for hire and reward will also not pay.
What is called commercial tax but of course there must be a commensurate insurance file with NCAA to show that this aeroplane is not hire and reward, so those persons will not pay any fee.
On safety/technical personnel
Presently, we are just trying to graduate the next class of personnel that we sent to for training.
They are about three of them, they are doing what is called flying hour’s completion for Air Traffic Controllers Personnel.
So, they are completing hours on the simulator and, we have also done an internal advert that people with science and technology background, including information technology knowledge who likes to be air traffic controllers can also apply and it is mainly for people who want to change into Air Traffic Services.
We are still training the engineers of course the last batch of the five years maintenance arrangement with the manufacturers is going to be finalised this year with the last 12 engineers so we will now start sending them to South Africa and any other places where there is a cadre module for engineering training, of course the regular ones in navigational aids or air field lighting will remain.
Our budget for training remains wide and as you know, you can’t spend everything on training and you can also have everything you want to have.
First as you know, NAMA survives on its internally generated revenue.
For manpower and development, we are spending like 500 million this year and we wish we can even spend more because training is very critical to us at all times. I have mentioned the solar air field lighting that is already in order.
On the collection of charges
Let me tell you, the five percent ticket sales charge that you pay as airlines, the airlines pay in an account domicile in NCAA me and the director general of NCAA has the responsibility to sign the sharing as it is approved by the accounting officer that is the minister and the permanent secretary, percentages are shared between NAMA, FAAN, AIPB, NCAT and NIMET.
AIPB does not make money, you know NCAT don’t make more money from their training fees and you also know that NIMET is also part of this group, so you could see that the direct contact with the airline is NAMA but NCAA is collecting the money, now on this airline or anybody who flies come to NAMA to file flight plan before anything happens at all and if they are coming from abroad, their agents come to NAMA to get the clearance so that they could come, government divided what is the point if the man lands three people go and meet him, I am from FAAN, I am from NAMA and so on with that corruption comes in so now we chose everybody one umbrella like NIMET comes to the International Airport at the third floor where flight plan are done and they collect their meteorological folder there.
So NAMA collect this money some we are agreed as the various agencies to do so, so FAAN now gets his landing, NCAA get, NAMA gets NCAT gets, NIMET and AIPB gets and that is one fund that everybody gets something and it is done so because most general aviation movement are mostly VIPs and you know when the man park in Akure somebody will say let me see our paper and there was an issue so that is the kind of things that we are trying to avoid.
You know the Senate said that they have not been briefed enough so we should go and harmonise and like I have always said, the customer will always be right, the airlines I have in Nigeria, the better for me so I don’t want to slam those who are owing me not to fly even from West African countries, Cameroon airlines came to pay because they wanted to start flying over our space and they will be going, so I don’t believe that we have to ground an airline, some are owing and they are here and we know them so outside that one stop shop will always be a better solution anytime any day, when you pay the money nobody will go and ask you any question because there is linkage between the agencies and the means of payment