Nigeria can achieve regional aviation hub – ICAO President

By Chris Agabi

What are your chances of getting re-elected into the ICAO council Presidency?
The elections will be done by the ICAO Council. The new council will be elected in October-November at the general assembly. I wish to express my profound appreciation through the minister to Mr. President for the unwavering support that has been given to me in my quest for re-election as the President of the ICAO council. It is much easier to seek that office when your home country supports you. Beyond that, the government at the last Assembly of the Heads of Governments in Africa also sought the endorsement of my candidature by the African Union which they did. But so doing, I already have the support of 54 states, which is more than one quarter of the ICAO member states. And once the rest of the members know that Africa is united under one candidate it is always difficult to challenge that candidate.

Three years down the line, what would you say are your achievements especially as it relates to Nigeria?
We have worked very closely with Nigeria and I am sure a lot has been achieved during this time. We just had the security audit of Nigeria. The result was 96 per cent and that is a good result. For the safety audit, in the next 90 days, it should be ready. In the area of capacity building, we are working very hard with Nigeria. We are working with the Aviation College in Zaria to translate it into a regional training centre with ICAO seal as a regional training centre of excellence. I am hopeful that it will be achieved. At ICAO we are also happy with the level of implementation and infrastructural development that you are seeing at the airports in Nigeria. When the minister visited me in Montreal, Canada, I told him, we will put ICAO’s resources at the disposal of government of Nigeria to support it.
What has been your challenge as the ICAO president?
Not all members of the ICAO states have the same resources but they will all have to meet the same requirements. One of the challenges is to ensure implementation of our standards and recommended practices across the states notwithstanding the level of resources they have. We launched a campaign few years ago called ‘the No country left behind’. The focus is to support developing states. ICAO is an organisation of 191 member states; some are much endowed while some are less endowed. But all the member states have to fulfil same standards and recommended practices. There is no short cut. But as president, I felt it necessary that as we set the standards, we should set up programmes to assist the developing states meet those requirements. In doing that, we can’t cover the 191 member states thus we have to work within regions with some specific states assisting us to assist their neighbouring states. In Africa, Nigeria will be the number one candidate. We’ve just had an audit which the minister prepared very well. There may be some few issues which the industry must address but I can assure that ICAO is willing to support Nigeria achieve the status of the civil aviation leader in this region. It’s in our interest that Nigeria succeeds because we also have to work with regional leaders.

In the face of terrorists’ attacks on airports, what do you recommend we do?
I have been having very close discussion with the minister as regards aviation security in Nigeria. What is happening in the region is of a challenge to all. Because aviation security is sensitive, I can’t tell you the strategies that we have been discussing but be rest assured that one of the critical issues where ICAO and Nigeria will collaborate closely is aviation security.
Some months ago, I sent a team to do security assessment in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroun. Arising from that is some strategies we will implement which I can’t discuss publicly. As I leave, I am going for a ministerial conference on aviation security and facilitation in Africa. All the African states will gather at a meeting with ICAO and the African Civil Aviation Commission and focus on how we can raise aviation security on the continent. We will also be talking biometrics passports and how to monitor all those who pass through our airports. So there are a number of issues we are looking at to facilitate aviation security in Africa.

How do we make Nigeria hub of aviation in Africa?
This is my advice. If you want to make Nigeria a hub; two things are involved. You must have an airport that is well equipped and providing all the transshipment facilities, and you need strong base carriers. Base carriers that will not only operate on origin and destinations but will also carry transit passengers. So you need the two ingredients to work together. Whether it’s a national carrier or flag carrier, you must have an indigenous carrier that is strong to partner with the airport to make Nigeria a hub.

How would the president’s fight against corruption impact the sector?
Regarding the President’s fight against corruption, this is the bane of our society that has impacted all the aspects of our national economy including the civil aviation sector. I’m very hopeful with the posture and determination of Mr. President and the support he is receiving; we can’t afford to miss this opportunity of getting it right now.

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