Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi has said the Federal Government would continue to strive for a continuous upgrading of facilities and services at the country’s various airports to enhance safety of users and personnel.
The minister accompanied by his Minister of State, Hadi Sirika, stated this in Lagos, during the tour of some aviation agencies located at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja.
Amaechi gave the assurance following briefs he received from some of the agencies particularly the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) who graphically demonstrated to him and his team some of the measures so far taken which had significantly reduced the difficulties operators and users encountered when seeking to process operational document especially before the advent of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Amaechi commended aviation agencies for the installation of critical safety equipment in every station and airport across the country and urged them not to rest on their oars in their bid to continually deliver quality services to the public
The ministerial team visited the NCAA, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other facilities at the airport.
Amaechi lauded the ingenuity behind the e-Flight Clearance web portal, developed by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) in conjunction with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), as a web-based solution to the strenuous system of manually processing aircraft over flight and landing permit by non-scheduled aircraft operators as obtained in the past.
Amaechi noted that as a Governor of Rivers State in the recent past, he personally encountered challenges trying to process manual flight clearance, the same way other pilots and airline agents did.
According to the minister, since the e-Flight Clearance can be processed online from anywhere in the world, without necessarily going to NAMA or NCAA offices, most of the delays would be removed from the system.
‘’What this software has done is that you can now manage your time better and make more money because time is money,” Amaechi said.
He charged the media to be magnanimous in commending government whenever laudable milestones such as the e-clearance are attained, stressing that the development has given him and his entourage cause to be happy.
He therefore, congratulated the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for a job well done.
Amaechi observed that with what was showed him and others, aviation in Nigeria had grown from the past of paper clearance to electronic clearance and could compete with its counterparts anywhere in the world.
He explained that with the migration to e-clearance , the industry would earn more revenues while less time would be used to process clearance by airlines.
He said, “With what I have seen here today, it shows that Nigerian aviation industry can be compared to any developed ones anywhere in the world. This is unlike in the past where you waste time processing papers.
His words: “I remember my experience at Akure Airport, which was sordid. The Airport Manager, a female came to me and said the airport was technically closed. But, I believe that didn’t happen to me alone as it equally affected others too.”
“But, with this software, you can manage your time better and earn some revenues for yourself. The government should be commended for what it has done recently,” he said
Also in his remarks, the Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman noted that the need to deploy technology in improving services necessitated innovation in the manner flight clearances are conducted, adding that the electronic clearance system apart from addressing bureaucratic problems associated with paper-work will also “be able to identify all incoming flights and record them in real time using their tail numbers as well as recording the time they depart the Nigerian airspace.”
Meanwhile Capt. Muhtar Usman promised that the agencies management would continually drive the government’s vision of improving facilities.
Usman declared that as the regulator, NCAA had to continually amend its regulations, which it recently did with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation, NCARs,
He added that the need to deploy technology to its clients could not be over-emphasised, stressing that before the adoption of the aircraft e-flight clearance, clearance was done manually, but said it had collaborated with NAMA to ease clearance for airlines.
He recalled that Nigeria recently passed two audits; the American Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, Category One Status and the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, Security Audit, which it scaled with 96 per cent.
He informed the minister that the industry was preparing for another safety audit in the first quarter of 2016 and assured that the country would scale the audit.
“We are prepared for another audit, which I assure you, sir, that we will scale through as we have prepared very well for this, just as we did in the past,” he said.
It will be recalled that the need to transit from the manual process of processing flight clearance to electronic became imperative following the myriad of challenges that dogged the old system. These included difficulty in tracing documents, unnecessary bureaucracy leading to waste of time as well as vulnerability of the system to manipulation to the detriment of national security.
It was therefore in a bid to mitigate or completely eradicate the above challenges that Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), in collaboration with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in 2014 commenced the process of developing the web-based software application as an alternative to the manual system.
According to the Deputy General Manager, NAMA Clearance Office, Mr Patrick Nebe, the e-Flight Clearance solution is a complete online real time business application which would among others ensure proper documentation of requests, eradicate violation of AOC provisions by aircraft operators, track local aerodrome movement of aircraft, track location of any aircraft in the country as well as generate local and international bills for each operation.