As the various stakeholders in the aviation industry gather today for a crucial meeting in Abuja, THISDAY gathered that the crisis rocking the industry as a result of the two bulletproof cars purchased by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for its top dignitaries will not be on the front burner.
Speaking on the phone yesterday, the National President, Air Transport Service Senior Staff of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) Mr. Ben Okewu, pointed out that the stakeholders meeting is not about the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, or the car scandal that is currently generating so much controversies.
He said: "Basically, the stakeholders' meeting holding in Abuja today is to discuss the way forward on the general crises confronting the entire industry." On the raging issue of the N255 million two armoured bulletproof cars purchased by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), he said emphatically: "We are not going to discuss the scandal or otherwise of the two cars, as that is not the essence of the meeting scheduled for today. The meeting has nothing to do with the scandal; we are discussing the way forward for the aviation industry."
However, he added that if it comes in as an issue, then it can be looked at, saying that the car scandal was not the reason why the stakeholders will be meeting in Abuja.
"There are so many issues like the operational autonomy and professional issues affecting the industry of which at the end of the day, we shall come out with a blue print of how to address the operational efficiency in the industry.
On the issue of planned protested being organised by the union as reported in a national daily on Sunday, he said: "We are not going to do that as you are aware that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), of which we part of has taken a position on that. All the unions are affiliated to NLC, which is our overall umbrella body."
He said a communiqué would be issued today on the way forward for the industry which will be to the overall interest of every Nigerian. Also speaking in a separate chat, the President of Nigerian Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Mr. Isaac Balami, also corroborated Okewu's view, adding: "We have discovered that the media has done a lot of damage to the aviation sector. You people are talking about cars while you people have forgotten that there are people who died as result of air crash and are yet to be buried. You have forgotten that at any moment that plane can crash. So we as professionals have decided to come together to discuss issues that concern our sector.
"Let us forget about that, we can discuss issue that will move the sector and issues that are making the international community look down on us.
"If you are talking about corruption go to the oil and gas with trillions of naira spent and nobody is saying a word. "I'm from Borno State, go there and see how many souls that we have lost to insecurity in the country, but we are not going there. "However, the purpose of our meeting today is to give room to experts and elders in the industry who have worked for over 40 years who will sit and find solution on how to move the industry forward."
He added that the air space was safe now, but the operators would prefer it to be safer, adding that that will be the key issue to be discussed at the meeting.
In his remarks, the General Secretary, NAAPE, Mr. S. Mohammed, hinted that the meeting would address the issues confronting the industry and to proffer solution.
On the controversy trailing the purchase of the two armoured vehicles, he said, the meeting will be about everything happening in the sector, as all concerned shall be discussing general aviation, you have been witnessed to the recent air crashes in the country, are people not more important than cars? he asked.