Reps Summon Aviation Minister Over Safety Concerns at Airports

21st May 2024

The House of Representatives on Tuesday called for a comprehensive audit of personnel to enhance the accountability and competence of the nation’s airports.

The lawmakers also asked the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, and heads of relevant agencies and departments to appear before them within seven days.

The resolution by the lawmakers followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance, moved by the member representing Oshodi-Isolo II Federal Constituency of Lagos State, Mr Jesse Onukalusi, on the floor of the House during plenary on Tuesday.

Moving the motion, the lawmaker highlighted the need to maintain high standards of safety, security, and efficiency at the nation’s airports, stressing that there was a need to ensure that all personnel and contractors were properly qualified and competent in handling airport-related activities.

According to him, recent incidents had raised concerns about the competence and accountability of personnel and contractors working at airports nationwide, even as he added that the House was aware of the potential risks to safety, security, and efficiency posed by the appointment of incompetent officers to sensitive positions and employment of political appointees who might lack the necessary knowledge and competence to manage critical airport functions.

He said, “The House is concerned about recent reports and observations indicating potential irregularities in the employment and appointment of personnel and contractors at major Nigerian airports, specifically in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, and Enugu.

“We are also concerned that the recruitment into technical areas must be regulated to prevent the manifestation of incompetence due to skewed recruitment processes. Moreover, appropriate sanctions for erring offenders related to airspace management should be enforced.

“The House is aware of the abysmal state of our radar systems, which present a disaster waiting to happen as radar labels often fail at critical times, risking mid-air collisions.”

The lawmaker added that lawmakers were worried about the state of communication radios, with previous attempts to resolve these challenges yielding no positive improvements, leading pilots and controllers to rely on relays from others for necessary instructions, risking national embarrassment.

While calling for merit-based appointments in the aviation industry, he maintained that political appointees played a role in personnel management, adding, however, that “Political influence should not compromise competence.”

Following the adoption of the motion, Speaker Abbas Tajudeen, who presided over the plenary on Tuesday, urged the Ministry of Aviation and relevant agencies to “Conduct a comprehensive audit of airport personnel”, adding “The audit shall include an assessment of required skills, qualifications, and adherence to professional standards.

“The report shall be presented to the House Committee on Aviation within 14 days.”

The House also mandated an audit of all contractors engaged in specialized areas at Nigerian airports in last year, “To ascertain their knowledge, competency, and ability to perform their duties effectively and ensure that contractors engaged in the last year present their company profiles, detailing their expertise and previous work experience.”

It also called on “The Ministry of Aviation to conduct an Audit of Technical systems and projects to thoroughly review the current state of radar systems, radio communications, the Safe Tower Project, and the Aeronautical Information Service Automation project. The findings and recommendations for improvements shall be submitted to the House Committee on Aviation within 14 days.”

The committee further mandated the minister of Aviation along with the heads of relevant agencies and departments, “To appear before the House Committee on Aviation within the next seven days to address these concerns.”