The gradual rebound of Nigeria's aviation industry is bringing honour to the country. So with a variety of talks and performances, industry experts gathered at a presidential banquet in Abuja at the weekend to celebrate the elevation of a Nigerian as the President of International Civil Aviation Organization. Adeola Akinremi writes
On the evening of Friday December 6, the congress hall of Transcorp Hilton, Abuja was filled to capacity. A sea of roundtables with green coloured programs perched atop the tabletops serving as compliment to the green linen cloths covering beautifully decorated tables. At about 8.pm a number of dignitaries had taken their seats in the ballroom. They came from far and near. True, this was not an ordinary gathering.
To be sure, President Goodluck Jonathan who was unavoidably absent sent the Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim to represent him. But the night was dedicated only to one man. It was a singular expression of a dream that showed the image of a people's devotion to the betterment of a nation. So the night began with speech making as dignitaries mounted the podium to commend the man who recently brought honour to Nigeria.
Nigeria's Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Hope Uzodinma; Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; Director General of National Orientation Agency, Mike Omeri; the current President of International Civil Aviation Council, (ICAO) Mr Robert Gonzalez; the Ambassador of Mexico to Nigeria and many captains of the aviation industry left other duties to fly the flag of Nigeria high with the President elect of ICAO, Dr. Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu who resumes as the 5th president-elect and the first African to hold such position in last seven decades of the organization.
So from January 2014, Aliu who came from humble parentage and rose to that important position of an international civil servant will take centre stage to help provide right leadership for ICAO to promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation throughout the world and help sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity, as well as for aviation environmental protection which is the basis of setting up ICAO and supported by its 191 member states.
"Things are turning around for good for our country and also in the aviation sector," said Onyejeocha, who made one of the moving speeches of the night. The House of Representative member thanked President Jonathan for foresight and dedication to duties and promised his committee will continue to give necessary to the industry that has experienced true transformation in recent times.
For Aliu, the man for whom all gathered, "It is really a great day for Nigeria and Africa at large. Since the inception of ICAO about 70 years ago, we have never had an African president. Therefore, it is a big day for us (Nigerians) to celebrate and Africans as well. The glory goes to God, the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah and all the officials of the Ministry of Aviation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs that have been involved in the process.
The government has given me unprecedented support, which resulted in the success of the election. Likewise, all African states deserve to be commended because the African Civil Aviation Commission endorsed it. You can understand that this is an African glory. The Nigerian government and I have been involved in all the processes that led to the success as well as the development of the aviation sector."
And as slow music seeped out of every corner of the ballroom to give a relax atmosphere, one after the other speakers for the night stepped up to the podium to express support for Aliu and to inspire Nigerians home and abroad. For Uzodinma, the elevation of Aliu is a good tiding and that should be cherished.
Soon, the Oduah took the opportunity the night provided to regale the public with the progress the ministry has made that equally crystalised in the emergence of Aliu as President of ICAO commencing January 2014. She talked about many things. First, she extolled the virtues of Aliu. She said: "Dr. Bernard Olumuyiwa Aliu, while serving as Nigerian Representative on ICAO Council, distinguished himself with exemplary performance, contributing to sustainable development of civil aviation globally. It is therefore no surprise that he won the confidence of his peers, and therefore emerged as the President-elect."
And just like Onyejeocha she thanked President Jonathan for making it possible. "I want to give credit and gratitude to Mr. President who provided tremendous support, leadership and guidance that made it possible for our own Dr. Bernard Olumuyiwa Aliu to emerge," she said.
She continued: "Nigeria shares ICAO's vision of promoting safety, security, environmental protection, comfort and sustainability of civil aviation globally. Nigeria also recognizes that the aviation sector plays a pivotal role in the economic development of a nation. It is on this basis that Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, through his Transformation Agenda, directed that the Aviation sector be repositioned to play an enabling and pivotal role for socio-economic development of the Nation."
And after pausing for applause that interrupted her speech, she then regaled the guests at the event with progress of work in the aviation ministry. Oduah explained that all efforts in her ministry are geared towards making Nigeria a continental hub, taking advantage of the country's unique geographical location in West Africa and its vast human resources.
Amongst other things she said: "In addition to infrastructural development at our airports, we have also put in place air navigation and meteorological infrastructure that has enhanced safety significantly in the Nigerian airspace, while maintaining our Category 1 Status with the FAA, USA. Our combined efforts at Communication, Navigation and Surveillance strategy have seen the improvements and installations of various modern equipment across the nation's airports.
The minister also disclosed that the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria is now a centre of excellence for Human capacity development and technical skills training.
"Furthermore, our regulatory and policy framework has been strengthened to ensure that our aviation sector has attained a high level of efficiency and effectiveness.
"The expected outcome of these initiatives is to position Nigeria as a continental hub, taking advantage of her unique geographical location and vast human resources. With support, Nigeria should become a Hub for African air transportation in the near future.
"Also, our aerotropolis and perishable cargo initiatives are on course. These will unlock huge economic potentials through the creation a value-chain and massive employment opportunities. The government of Nigeria remains committed to serve Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world," she said.
The night reached its acme as the Senator Anyim led other senior government officials to the stage to make presentations that included flag of Nigeria to Aliu as a symbol of progress for the nation. Without doubt, Aliu who enjoys the support of the outgoing President of ICAO, Gonzalez, a Mexican who attended the event as a special guest, becoming and international civil servant in the words of Gonzalez means more and he knows it. "I will do my best to make the country proud and to improve the level of work at ICAO," Aliu said.