Nigeria: Labour Counsels Govt Against Frequent Summoning of Aviation Agencies' Chiefs

22 May 2020

The National Union of Air Transport of Employees (NUATE) has condemned the frequent summoning of aviation agencies Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to Abuja by the Ministry of Aviation, which it described as unnecessary.

A letter written to the minster with the reference number: NUATE'GS/HMS.FMT/ENP/004-20, dated May 15, signed by Ocheme Aba, the General Secretary of NUATE declared that rather than frequently summon the CEOs to Abuja, the ministry could adopt virtual meetings to save cost for the sector.

The letter, which was also copied the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Managing Directors of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Commissioner of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), stated that the cost implication of relocating the agencies out of Lagos was prohibitive.

"We truly understand the intention of the government to reduce the cost of governance through this exercise. The chunk of this reduction is to be realised from the savings from the heads of the agencies' frequent trips to Abuja to answer the calls of the Minister of Aviation.

"But, most believe, ourselves included that these frequent calls are really unnecessary and actually amount to undue distraction and interference from the ministry. Besides, as Covid-19 has taught us, virtual meeting has become the other of the day. This can be veritable resort by the ministry to save the severe headache orchestrated by the present disconcerting relocation order to the agencies."

The letter further emphasised that none of the agencies had a relocation component in the 2020 approved budget and wondered why the ministry made it compulsory for them to relocate within 45 days.

NUATE pointed out that it would be impossible to contemplate such huge expenditure as extra budgetary spending not to mention the impracticality of raising such funds in the current clime of over 90 per cent loss of revenue due to the covid-19 pandemic

It would be recalled that the ministry of aviation in letter dated May 4, 2020 had ordered NCAA, FAAN, NAMA and AIB to relocate to Abuja within 45 days, which would elapse in the next one month.

Besides, NUATE observed that many staff of the affected agencies were being owed transfer allowances for upward 12 months and queried how an agency that had been unable to pay transfer allowances for a few staff could afford to relocate its whole headquarters comprising several offices and personnel without extra budgetary support.

The union also recalled that President Olusegun Obasanjo had in 1999 granted the maritime and aviation agencies exemption from the relocation order, stressing that this was to prevent the severe dislocation of the connection between the agencies and their primary constituents that were congregated around their operational bases in Lagos.

"This is the story behind the Ship House in Abuja, which was built by the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) as its corporate headquarters, but was released to the Nigeria military after the Obasanjo government decided to allow the NPA remain headquartered in Lagos," it added.

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