|Captain Fola Akinkuotu|
By Nelson Ekujumi
The Nigerian aviation sector of late has dominated the headlines in our public life for the wrong reason which is sad for our collective psyche as a people and country. Unfortunately, the malfeasance with regards to the aviation sector came to the fore most especially in the twilight of the tenure of the former Director General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren as a result of the Dana air crash in which over 160 persons lost their lives and properties destroyed.
The icing on the cake of the rot in the aviation sector was the corruption news that broke regarding the purchase of two (2) BMW bullet proof cars for N255 million by the NCAA for the aviation Minister Mrs. Stella Oduah and of which millions of Nigerians are miffed.
However, as stakeholders in the Nigerian project, it behooves on Nigerians to stop brooding or lamenting over the rot in our private and public life but should rather sit up and make sure that those in positions of authority do the right thing by being vigilant, after all, it is said that eternal vigilance is the watchword of democracy.
It is in the light of the foregoing and because of the critical importance of the aviation sector to national life, that we want to examine the state of affairs in NCAA and the aviation sector now that a new helmsman has come into the saddle with a view to re-positioning it for global best practices and a pride to us all. We want to do a forensic analysis of the new helmsman of NCAA in order to determine if he is capable of doing a turnaround of NCAA and the aviation sector for the good of all.
Unfortunately for Captain Fola Akinkuotu, he is coming in at a critical time that his organization (NCAA) is in the spotlight for negative reasons and he is saddled with the onerous responsibility of offering explanations for a matter (Oduah car scandal) which he knew nothing about since it occurred while he was awaiting resumption into office after confirmation by the National Assembly.
The three months gap between his confirmation and assumption into office as Director General exposed NCAA to untold abuse and mismanagement in which she was unable to fulfill her regulatory responsibility to the travelling public.
The new Director General of NCAA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu is mounting the saddle at a time that one is not envious of the huge responsibilities on his shoulder because of the rot in NCAA and the aviation sector coupled with the Stella Oduah bullet proof car scandal that has brought the image of NCAA and the aviation sector into public opprobrium.
For our information and public consumption, Captain Fola Akinkuotu is a thoroughbred aviation expert. He is a revered Pilot, aircraft inspector cum engineer and flight engineer which goes a long way to confirm that indeed, this man is truly a round peg in a round hole.
Captain Fola Akinkuotu is a seasoned administrator and educationist, having served as the CEO of an international aviation training institution and has over 44 years industry experience. He has over 13, 000 hours jet time. He was responsible for the complete start up of IRS airline and managed the entire day to day operations of the airline which is still in existence till date.
Captain Akinkuotu brief stint and achievement as the pioneer Rector of the Nigeria Aviation College speaks volume of his competence as a thoroughbred professional. He is an avid apostle of local content in the Nigerian aviation industry. Captain Fola Akinkuotu antecedents in aviation administration has put him in good stead to know the major problems bedeviling the industry coupled with his keen awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of local and foreign airlines operating in Nigeria and the way forward.
Our investigation revealed that upon assuming office as the DG of NCAA, Captain Akinkuotu undertook a stock taking of his establishment as well as the entire Nigerian aviation industry and the result was a damning verdict of an organization in disarray with an unfocussed management presiding over a disillusioned and disoriented workforce, thus giving credence to the saying that if the head of a fish is rotten, so also would be the body.
However, despite swimming in the stormy waters of financial impropriety leveled against it and the aviation minister Mrs. Stella Oduah, NCAA under Captain Fola Akinkuotu has tackled frontally the myriad of problems confronting the organization and he has been able to steer the regulatory agency back on the right track. Today, NCAA under Captain Akinkuotu in fulfilling its regulatory obligation has embarked on a forensic audit of airlines with a view to determining their air worthiness in line with global best practices. One hopes this will be a continuous process through adequate and trained personnel who are well motivated. This audit has resulted in casualties because some local airlines whose safety status was suspect have had their operating license suspended temporarily until corrections is made in the larger interest of the industry and our country.
Since he assumed duty four months ago, NCAA under Captain Akinkuotu has stepped up aerodrome inspection of all the nation's airport terminals, passengers screening process inspections, cargo screening inspections as well as ramp inspections.
With a view to combating the security challenges confronting the nation, NCAA have ensured that all existing safety and security equipments at all of the country’s airports such as the CCTV surveillance system, 3 dimensional body screening and baggage X ray systems are being evaluated in order to determine their effectiveness and the need for possible overhaul with Lagos and Abuja airports being on top priority because of their economic and social importance.
We have been reliably informed that NCAA under Captain Fola Akinkuotu is presently liaising with FAAN and the federal ministry of aviation to put in place ICAO recommended perimeter security fence wire at all our airports with a view to preventing security lapses.
Another novel innovation witnessed in the aviation sector under the leadership of Captain Akinkuotu NCAA is the issue of passenger’s right which for a long time had been trampled upon by both the regulatory agency and the airlines. In line with his vision of redressing this abuse of passengers right, Captain Akinkuotu recently launched a passenger bill of right to this effect. He has also ordered massive consumer rights and obligation awareness as well as activated a 24 hours consumer’s protection helpdesk and hotlines in all Nigerian airports.
A very important step to re-positioning NCAA and the aviation industry lies in motivating its work force and this is one area that Captain Fola Akinkuotu has given serious attention to. Adequate continuous training programmes meant to increase the capacity of workers is now the order of the day for flight safety inspectors and all other staffs. A phased payment of outstanding staff entitlements is ongoing and complaints over unpaid allowances which hitherto had been the order of the day is now a thing of the past. Captain Akinkuotu in boosting the morale of his workers has even gone a step further to putting smiles on their faces by approving and commencing implementation of new conditions of service which took the unions almost six years to secure from previous NCAA administration and the ministry of aviation but was never implemented.
In as much as we want to sincerely commend Captain Fola Akinkuotu for the giant strides he’s taking towards repositioning NCAA and the aviation sector to be alive to its primary responsibilities, it is important that he does not lose sight of the need to make sure that the country’s airport runways are of world standard and well lit to aid navigation. It is equally important to point out the need to do a forensic audit of navigational equipments for the safety of our airspace. We also want to urge NCAA to synergize with its sisters organization in the aviation industry like NAMA in ensuring efficient and effective weather monitoring for the safety of the flying public.
As we bask in the euphoria of the groundbreaking innovations and repositioning of NCAA and the aviation sector under the leadership of Captain Fola Akinkuotu, as patriotic and responsible citizens, we owe it an obligation to be vigilant, so that we can hold him accountable for charting this honourable path that we have all envisioned for the aviation sector of our dreams.
(Ekujumi is the Executive Chairman,
Committee for the Protection of Peoples Mandate (CPPM),
1a Fadeyi Street, Ikeja, Lagos. 08023172694, 07033853232)