Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Safety: We’ll Sanction Defaulting Officials, FG Assures Passengers

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, SAN.
The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, SAN.

In response to recent concerns within the aviation sector, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, has reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian government to ensuring the safety of air travellers.

Keyamo announced stringent sanctions for officials failing in their duties during a technical meeting with the CEOs of key aviation agencies, including the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), the Federal Airport Authority Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Addressing the public’s worries, Keyamo emphasised the government’s sensitivity to public opinion, stating, “As a government, we will not close our eyes and ears to concerns about Nigeria”.

Keyamo acknowledged the need for immediate action following an incident where a plane bound for Abuja landed in Asaba. He pointed out that such incidents indicate a failure of regulation and dispatcher oversight. The minister pledged concrete measures to prevent such occurrences, stating, “If an incident happens anywhere in our airport, that is not an act of God; there is a failure of regulation somewhere”.

To investigate these incidents, Keyamo directed the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) to provide a report within ten days, including transcripts and videos. NSIB is the primary agency empowered by law to issue official reports on aviation incidents.

Keyamo highlighted discrepancies in the incident, explaining, “From the transcript, we had the tower kept asking the pilots to confirm that they were going to Abuja, not Asaba. The pilot replied, ‘No, I am going to Asaba'”.

In response to the incident, the aviation industry and its agencies reached a resolution. Keyamo outlined the following measures:

1.     Sanctions for the dispatcher and all involved parties. Keyamo emphasised the need for accountability, stating that sanctions would be applied where necessary. “The dispatcher who dispatched that plane and everyone involved will be interviewed and sanctions will be applied.”

2.     Mandatory presence of a Nigerian pilot on the jump seats for all incoming wet leases. Acknowledging the lack of familiarity of foreign crews with the Nigerian terrain, Keyamo insisted that henceforth, every wet lease entering Nigeria must have a Nigerian pilot present on the jump seats.

3.     The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to summon all pilots and crew operating wet leases within 72 hours. Highlighting the urgency of the situation, Keyamo directed the NCAA to convene all pilots and crew members involved in wet leases for further briefings within the next 72 hours.

4.     Withdrawal of licenses and blacklisting of companies failing to prevent such incidents. The minister cited the example of United Airlines, stating, “The NCAA has taken a decision to grant them a wet lease only after they have sanctions with all the foreign pilots and crews involved in operating these wet leases”.

“If you are bringing a wet lease to Nigeria, your cabin crews should be Nigerians. The pilot can be foreign pilots because they normally bring them so that Nigerians will see people on their plane they can interact with, not people who will be making announcements and don’t know the announcements they are making.”

“The pilot was cleared that he was going to Asaba, whereas his flight plan was supposed to take him to Abuja,” Keyamo added.

Keyamo disclosed that the ministry has set up a committee to ensure that all these sanctions are enforced on airlines. If the reason for flight delays and cancellations is the fault of the airlines, compensation must be paid to passengers.

“If your flight is delayed or cancelled and you don’t get cash back, you should be able to rebate in the next ticket. I have set up a committee to work it out on how we are going to generate a code to give to that passenger. By the time the person will be buying the next ticket, he will be buying it 25 or 30 per cent less of the amount,” Keyamo stressed.

He charged the customer consumer protection department with producing a weekly report on the catalog of cancelled and delayed flights, including details on causes and actions taken.

In implementing these stringent measures, Keyamo aims to restore confidence in the safety and reliability of air travel for all Nigerians.

Oluchi Okorafor
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