The Federal Executive Council has approved a new policy.
In order to check owners of private jets who shortchange the government and sometimes use their jets for unapproved purpose, the Federal Executive Council at its weekly meeting approved a new policy to guide the operation of private jets in Nigeria, the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, told journalists after the meeting.
The Council, at the meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House in Abuja, approved the new National Aviation Policy to boost development in the aviation sector in line with international standards; as well as tighten the operations of private jets in the country.
The revised policy also gives priority to safety and the use of technology in the provision of services amongst others.
The approval is coming on the heels of accusations made by the Ministry of Aviation that private jet owners in the country continue to abuse the guidelines, with the issue coming to a head following the grounding of the jet belonging to Rivers State Government.
The Aviation ministry grounded the Rivers jet, claiming that it was not really owned by Rivers State and had violated aviation rules, claims Rivers denies. Observers had linked the problem to the ongoing feud between President Goodluck Jonathan and Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
Ms. Oduah, who briefed journalists alongside the Minister of Transport, Idris Umar; Minister of Information, Labaran Maku; and the Minister of State for Abuja, Olajumoke Akinjide; said the policy was last reviewed 11 years ago.
She noted that the policy will ensure that jets operations are properly monitored, as private jets will operate as private jets and commercial jets as commercial jets. The jets will also now be charged accordingly.
Speaking on taking advantage of the availability of private jets in the country, Ms. Oduah said, “The question is not of taking advantages, it is a question of doing the right thing.”
“Are they paying what they are supposed to pay? The response is no they are not, but we want to make sure that they do pay what they are supposed to pay. These are part of the what the policy is addressing.
“We want to make sure that private jets are private jets and commercial jets are commercial jets and each will operate within the boxes they are meant to operate so we don’t want to overcharge anyone, we don’t want to undercharge we want to do what is global standards,” she said.
Nigeria has witnessed an upsurge in the number of private jets by politicians, businessmen and clerics with about a hundred now operating in the country.
No laws for private jets
Ms. Oduah lamented that there was currently no law regulating the operations of private jets.
“When we talk about general aviation we are talking about the private jets. As of today we have about a hundred of them and having them we have no law, no policy no regulation to make sure that they are operating the way they should operate within ICAO laws and our aviation policy,” she said.
She also spoke on commercial flight operations; saying, “The policy has to take into cognisance the fact that you must have healthy operators. It is only when you healthy operators that safety can be given the regards that it should be given.”
“In doing that, you have to create a new directorate that focuses on economic and commercial regulations. For us it is very important. Again when an airline is unhealthy they will have difficulty in compliance as far as the safety regulations are concerned, but the policy has to address those issues,” she said.
Ms. Oduah said the policy also highlighted the bilateral relations in the country’s aviation sector which have so far not added any benefits. The policy also addresses the process of accomplishing the establishment of a national carrier in tandem with the president’s promise of a private sector driven national carrier as well as the general security and safety of the airports and its facilities.
The policy also considers the operations of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) as well as a national climate policy.
” AIB should not just investigate accidents and incidents, they should ensure that the outcome of their report is fully implemented. So AIB will police NCAA to ensure that all the outcome of their investigation is adequately addressed,” she said.
The Transport Minister, Mr. Umar, briefed council on the ministry’s 2012 performance in line with the new presidential directive requesting all ministers to give account of their stewardship.
Mr. Umar said they have made tremendous improvement in the railway sector and are rebuilding and expanding standard gauges in the south and eastern axis.
Speaking further, he mentioned that the ministry was able to only access 56 per cent of its capital budget which stood at about N26 billion out of the capital allocation of N49.6 billion.
As part of the achievement in the railway sector, the minister said 4.155 million passengers used the railway and there was a tonnage of 182,465.
For the inland water ways, he said the passenger capacity grew from 250,000 in 2011 to about 1.308 million in 2012.