Segun Musa is the Chairman, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Murtala Mohammed International Airport Chapter, Lagos. In this interview with our Correspondent, NWADINAMUO AUGUSTINE, he bared his mind on the activities of the former Minister of Aviation Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah and his expectations from the incoming Minister of Aviation. Excerpt;
How would you react to the resignation of the former Minister of Aviation Princess Stella Oduah?
Thank you very much for seeking my opinion on this issue. I must say without mincing words that it was more or less not news because I have much expected it and everybody have been waiting for the D-day and when it came, it came not as a surprise.
And it will also interest you to know that the former Aviation Minister made a lot of blunders and unfortunately for her, she was not working with the stakeholders. She was operating on her own and we kept saying that for having the opportunity to be appointed into any public office, it is never a right but a privilege. It does not show that you are the best amongst all but you were only given the opportunity to prove yourself. And what is expected is for you to allow the office to turn you round and bring the best out of you.
In her own case, she believed she was in the world of her own and as far as she was concerned, whatever anybody said did not concern her. We had given several advice, we had written letters to her personally on invitation so that we can communicate, we can have round table discussions and we can give her our own professional advice because she is not a professional in this field, she was a political appointee and she needed to work with the stakeholders in the sector, but she turned all of the down.
When she started with the beautification of the airports, we gave the advice that the first thing she needed to do was capacity building because the airport structures on its own is a shell. The attention should be in the content. No matter how big the snail shell could be, it is irrelevant to the buyer because what the buyer wants to be sure of is the content and not the shell. So she abandoned the content and concentrated on the shell and we told her, look when you build all these and the people to manage it do not have the culture, they have not been trained to take ownership , they have not been trained on how to manage it, whatever you do will end up becoming wasting of resources.
If you are having a smaller airport and we are having a bad management, people have abandoned the place, A/Cs are not working, the whole place is dirty, everywhere is just like and without you bringing a culture that even as small as the airport is, let us give it adequate Maintenance, you see dust, cobweb everywhere in the airport, the electricity is nothing to write home about, it could go off and on at any given time. The floor will be littered with dirty things, at times smelling. What you need to do is to change the mindset and the attitude of the people that are working there.
Would it not be said that as the person at the helm of the affairs of the Ministry, one would not expect her to be everywhere at the same time and as such, those little things can be blamed on her subordinates?
Interestingly, the bulk stopped on her table. You don’t call the Director of Maintenance or any other Director and say that he should be held responsible. No! The bulk stopped on her table. Anything that happened in the Aviation sector stopped on her table. She needed to change the orientation of the lieutenants working with her. They are now the ones to pass the bulk down the ladder and that is why the head is very important. Once the head is faulty, the whole body is sick. She was wearing the crown and there is a saying that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
If you are to talk about faulting her regarding the airports and the rest, the first person that needed to be sacked is the MD FAAN but because the bulk stops on the Minister’s table and that was why I said, if you are a Minister, You should be having interactions with your stakeholders regularly and get feedback. There is no better feedback you can get than the one you are getting from the stakeholders themselves.
Even the structures we are talking about, she was not the one building them, people were building them but she was taking the glory. So if any other one comes behind that, she has to take it.
Let us look at the airport remodeling which she embarked upon, would you say that it added any value to the citizens of this country?
No! It has not added any value to the airports. People are not complaining about the size of the airports, no, we are not complaining about the size of the airports. Even when we are saying that there is the need for us to expand but the expansion of the airports is the secondary factor. The primary factor is the service delivery. Airports depict the arena, for people that are paying to use the airports; they must have good value for using the airports. We have so many security agents that will check you when you are traveling. All over the world, you don’t get that, even in Ghana here. It is only in Nigeria that you want to travel, so many security agencies and you want to come back, the same thing, for what?
If you want to bring any renovation, the first thing you need to do is, yes, we believe all of you have to be at the border stations, airports and stuffs like that, but sorry we can’t allow you to have interface with the people passing. The only thing we have to do is to make sure we train our FAAN staff, if they see anything that has to do with your own primary responsibility; they will refer the person to you. You have offices here but you don’t have to have interface with people and start opening people’s luggage anyhow.
You have to go through an upwards of up to five, six, seven even eight security checks, each searching the same luggage, some looking for food and drugs, some looking for the quality of what you are carrying, some looking for arms and ammunition, the other looking for currency. That is rubbish; it doesn’t happen in any other part of the world. What is the essence of the scanners?
Let us take a look at the designation of some airports in the country as perishable Cargo Airports. I think this is the first of its kind in the country. What impact do you think this will have on the economy?
Interestingly, we used to say that people just wake up one day and formulate policy. There is need for consultations. Policy formulation is not what somebody acquires abroad or checks one file somewhere and says, Oh somebody wanted to start this so many years ago or they are doing this in so many countries around the world. You must consult, you must know your peculiarity, you must understand, how do I go about this to meet the local demand?
Consultations is not for you to go and gather eminent personalities like Dangote, Adenuga and the rest of them in one room and start discussing what you want to do at the airports. No, it must be the stakeholders that will patronize and manage these policies that she was supposed to consult and relate with, let them give you feedback on how the thing will work.
Interestingly, as far as the airports are concerned, we don’t have equipment and storage facilities that in case this perishable is coming to the airport and the flight couldn’t arrive that evening or something else happened along the line that you will say, this is the warehouse where you can store this pending the time that we have another flight that will carry it. Probably, what you are bringing is more than what can go through an aircraft and we need storage.
You see, a lot needed to be put in place into consideration, as we are talking today, FAAN or the Ministry of Aviation do not have any facility at the airport because the entire thing has been concesioned out. The starting point is for to determine whether the ground handling companies existing within the Aviation sector have such facility that can manage what I can call Export Quantity of Perishables. So where do you want to store it when it arrives?
Are you saying that there is no facility to store those perishables at the airport when they arrive?
As far as I am concerned, we don’t have it, probably, it is under projection but as far as today is concerned, we don’t have it.
How would you score the Aviation sector in the last one year in terms of performance?
Aviation sector performed woefully last year. I can call it more of misplacement of priority. Aviation was like let us do things that the people will see. No, there are so many things that the people don’t have to see but the people will feel. So many things have been abandoned in the aviation sector, like the attitude of the people working in the aviation sector.
Today, the police force will transfer somebody from Kosubosu, somebody that probably all along his life or her life, what she has been doing is hunting for animals in the bush in Kosubosu or in Kiyama or somebody like all along she has been monitoring a market or somebody in Sokoto that has been monitoring the Fulani herdsmen. You don’t send such a person to a sensitive place like the airport under staff of order. That person did not have the orientation of how to meet with people moving through the aviation sector in and out. Aviation is supposed to be a reception arena where a person will have the first impression about the country he is visiting because the people they meet on arrival will give them a set mind because they that the first impression matters and goes a long way.
Aside that, the whole environment of the airport is something else. Is it the roads, the roads are bad, the drainage are the worst and all these things needed to be given attention and the only thing that comes to the minds of all these managers is how to generate revenue, no service attached to it.
Look at the crash that happened, unfortunately, it happened inside the airport and look at the response, the response was terribly bad. So you can now imagine if it happened outside the airport. An aircraft just lifted and nose-dived instantly inside the airport and the response was terribly bad. Maybe they could have saved more lives but because the response was bad, criminals, touts moved all the way from Oshodi, Shogunle down to the airport and started rescuing and stealing before the aviation people could even take themselves down there, almost one hour after the incident.
Besides that, look at the international airport, look at the airlines operating, some of them are just managing to operate because the charges are killing. It is a case of you pay or you get out of the country. They are not business friendly, they should find out how much other airlines are paying outside the shores of this country. And that is why most of the time when we are buying our tickets; we pay so much money in buying our tickets because all the money they had been charged, they will pass it down to the final consumer.
Do you think the nation’s airports are safe and secure?
We have been saying that time without number, our airports are not secure. It is only God that is helping us to secure our lives at the airports. As far as we are concerned, we don’t have any security at the airport. Often times we do record armed robbery operations inside the airports, so what kind of security is that?
What is the way forward?
The first thing is for us to appreciate the fact that security is not about carrying guns or people wearing uniform, security is all about information. The main thing I information, communication, we don’t have it at the airport, intelligence report; we don’t have it at the airport.
Perimeter fencing of the airport, we don’t have it. People can move in from the nearby villages to the airport and do whatever they want to do get away with it. Look at the INEC material, people came from Shasha to the airport and stole INEC materials and they sold it in the market. The people that could move inside the tarmac where the aircraft do land and stole something can as well move into the tarmac and plant bomb inside the tarmac. That shows that our airports are not secure.
The way forward is first, we have to have perimeter fence of the airport, we must have regular patrol, not eye service patrol, the whole airport must be well lighted, there must be light everywhere. I am not talking about the traffic light for the landing and taking off of planes, no, I am talking of real beam light and there must be close circuit camera round everywhere to monitor activities.
Again, there must be security people that would be moving in mufti, they do not necessarily need to be SSS because anybody that is posted to the airport, what is in his mind is that I have opportunity to go and make my own money. There must be intelligence report. People might sit somewhere, you can hang around them, watching and gathering information. With that, we will be able to get a lot of information as regards security.
What is your advice to the incoming Minister of Aviation?
Whoever is coming in as the Minister of Aviation must be ready to relate very well with the stakeholders. They are the ones that have the day to day activities of the airports; they have the feedback, they have all the information regarding the Aviation sector. He need to work with them, he doesn’t need to underestimate any stakeholder within the aviation sector. They will be able to tell you if not about everything in the aviation sector, they will be able to tell you about their own core area of the aviation industry and with that, he will be able to get it right.