Airline operators and industry experts have warned that air safety would be jeopardised if the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which regulates the industry is recognised by the federal government as a revenue generating agency. Since the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA), the NCAA has been paying 25 per cent of its budgeted revenue to the federal government and since then, has paid about N17 billion to government coffers.
The experts posited that ideally the NCAA should utilise revenues at its disposal for manpower development and regulation of the industry, warning that safety standard might be compromised if the authority begins to target revenue instead of consigning itself to strict regulation of the sector.
The CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, told THISDAY that in the bid to generate revenue, the NCAA over charges airlines, saying this leaves the operators with poor liquidity, as they have to pay for the inspection of training facility, maintenance facility and aircraft inspection overseas.
All these, Sanusi said, are done to make NCAA earn more revenue despite the fact that it already collects five per cent ticket sales charge and cargo sales charge from the airlines.
He said it was expected that the NCAA should fund its aircraft inspection overseas from the money it generates from the five per cent charge or government may decide to device funding mechanism for the regulatory authority, which would at the same time guarantee its autonomy.
"When a regulator becomes profit making organization, the aim of sustaining safety and promoting the growth of the airlines would be defeated. The agency would no more care if there is growth in the industry as long as it is making its own profit. That will be counterproductive to safety. This will endanger the airlines and defeat professionalism in the industry," Sanusi said.
He said the NCAA should be fully funded by the federal government, suggesting that government could set out one per cent of the ecological fund or funds should be made available by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to fund NCAA.
"If such funds cannot be set aside, government should device another mechanism of funding, whereby a new policy should be introduced that would direct every passenger to pay N1000 per ticket, instead of the current percentage charge," the Aero CEO said.
He noted that when an airline pays for first class ticket and provides accommodation for the inspector from NCAA going to inspect the airline's aircraft overseas, it is highly likely that the inspector may be influenced by those overtures.
Speaking in the same vein, a Managing Director of an airline that is into charter operations who craved for anonymity, told THISDAY that if NCAA begins to target money making, regulatory procedure would not become the focus anymore and this would be dangerous for the industry.
"Therefore it would be necessary that NCAA is restricted to its regulatory job than running as profit making organization. It should be left to function as regulator. Commercial enterprise cannot go hand in hand with strict regulation," he said.
The operator who is also a seasoned pilot, said it might be in the bid to make profit that prompts NCAA to deploy inspectors to inspect a facility for an airline, which it inspected two weeks ago for another airline, for example.
"It is the same facility and they know everything about it but if two weeks ago, for example, they inspected the same facility for one airline, they would still come and inspect for you after two weeks. This makes us laughing stock in the global aviation world. Also look at the inspection of an aircraft in the manufacturer's facility. What are you inspecting? You don't know more than the manufacturer; if you know more than him you won't be working for NCAA. This makes the world cringe for us," he said.
However, the spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, told THISDAY that what the NCAA is doing is what is the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation and that the regulation was put together by industry stakeholders. That if they have different view, they should demand for such change next time that the Civil Aviation Regulations would be reviewed.
Adurogboye also noted that inspection of facility is necessary because some degenerate over time, but one may still be rating it with old records when it was still performing well.