About six years after the former boards were dissolved, aviation agencies and parastatals are yet to get statutory Board of Directors (BoDs).
President Muhammadu Buhari had, four years ago, approved replacements of the former boards but the new ones are yet to be inaugurated.
The vacuum, much to the disenchantment of aviation stakeholders, has been blamed for the slow pace of growth and alleged absence of checks and balances in the aviation sector.
Stakeholders alleged that the governing boards were deliberately kept at bay to enable the minister to gain “overbearing control” of the five aviation agencies.
The agencies with statutory boards, according to the Acts that established them are the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Part three of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act 2006, for instance, provides for a governing board for the NCAA. The Act mandates that the board shall have a chairman, one representative from each of the ministries of Aviation, Defence, and Communication. Also, four persons with cognate experiences in aviation and the Director-General of the NCAA are to be members of the board.
The responsibilities of the board include fixing the terms and conditions of service for employees, review of annual report of the management for submission to the President, present annual budget estimates of the agency to the minister, record-keeping, and audit of the agency among others.
Given the central position of the boards, stakeholders are worried that the minister has kept mum on the boards’ inauguration four years after Buhari approved their compositions.
President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), a think-tank group, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, said the boards and their compositions bothered on transparency, accountability, and responsibility in the sector.
Olowo said due to the specialised nature and primacy of safety in the aviation sector, “boards of directors are essential for prompt decision-making”.
“Interim boards can fill an administrative vacuum, but agencies are not contemplated to run without functional boards for periods exceeding three months. ASRTI is of the view that aviation sector policymakers adopt international aviation’s best corporate governance for the promotion of safety.
“Sirika (the minister) should as a matter of urgency inaugurate boards for the respective agencies to avoid continuous breach of the rules.”
General Secretary, the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Abdulrazaq Saidu, reckoned that “the failure” of the minister to inaugurate boards for the agencies was a disregard for the rule of law.
Saidu noted that ANAP had written letters to the minister to remind him of this oversight, “but he has failed to respond to any of our letters on the issue.
“Aviation workers are suffering because of the several actions of the minister since he came on board. For instance, training of personnel has been relegated to the background in recent years. That would not have been the case where there are Boards.”
A former General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Olayinka Abioye, offered that the non-inauguration of the boards underscored the rot in the aviation sector.
“The implication is that the minister wants to still control the happenings in the parastatals. You are aware that by the Acts establishing these agencies, they are supposed to report to a Board and in the absence of a Board, the minister takes charge.”
So, if the minister dares to set aside the directive of Mr. President, it goes to show that something is wrong with our system.
“The minister and the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the agencies have a limit on what they can approve and spend without recourse to the BoDs. Some of his activities over the years indicate that he has flagrantly disobeyed the extant rules for the industry,” Abioye said.