African Outlook Online

Ade Shogbonyo's column

Personality Cult

Personality Cult

By Ade Shogbonyo

 The Federal government of Nigeria in its infinite wisdom has just replaced the heads of FAAN, NAMA and NCAT. In the case of FAAN it couldn’t have come sooner.

There are serious issues that plague the delivery of services at our airports both on the front side and back side behind the scenes. It is however very curious that the whilst the reasons given for the change at the helm of all these organizations was essentially the expiration of the terms of the individual chief executives, NCAA was conveniently omitted. It is obvious that if the criteria used was term expiration Dr. Demuren’s term has long since expired. As I have noted in the past Dr. Demuren has done a good job in establishing and taking NCAA through its infancy, it is time for him also to move on.

As it has been outlined by some erudite mind in the past it is best to leave the stage when the ovation is loudest. In the case of NCAA’s chief executive, the time is now. There are reports of some serious problems in the structure of NCAA. Defects that are inherent in any organization that relies on a leader rather than a structure to guide it in the long term are beginning to show and threaten to destroy the work that has been done. An air of invincibility and infallibility seems to permeate the apex of NCAA even though it could be said that the chief executive means well.

We must learn to move away from the overall culture of personality cults. The true test of a well run entity is for it to function seamlessly with the absence of its head. The head should be able to put in place a structure that will outlast himself as chief executive. Nothing can compare to a well structured organization that will function on “autopilot” and perform its functions routinely.

There are serious questions as to the rationale behind the issuance of permits for foreign, specifically South African corporate jets operating in Nigeria. The proliferation of these aircraft undermines the very essence of the corporate structure of the aviation sector. Oversight is spotty at best and transparency in operations is foggy, probably in an attempt to deliberately obfuscate the ownership of these aircraft. 

Continuity is essential when it relates to any organization. As it relates to NCAA the greatest challenge for Dr. Demuren and ultimately the Federal government is to see how NCAA will function after he decides to step down. As it is known he was brought in from retirement to his position of prominence where he has performed admirably in shepherding NCAA through its nascent steps towards being accepted as a reputable oversight organization.

The autonomy granted to NCAA and the subsequent provision that it be headed by an engineer however smacks a total lack of foresight and appreciation for tested reality. NCAA is not and will never be the baby of one individual. Its very existence is based upon the collective need for safety and accountability.

It could be argued that the pressing problem that afflicts commercial aviation in Nigeria is related to maintenance, but pointing to this is superficial in its approach. Economics, greed and a lack of understanding of the business of commercial aviation is the primary reason for the desire and practice of cutting corners that impact safety. It does not take an engineer to recognize this. 

 Whilst it seems all quiet on the commercial airline side of the aviation sector, trends are beginning to emerge on the corporate side of a disturbing nature. All the fatalities in aviation in the last few years have been related to corporate aviation. Though the fatalities may not be high, the trend is no less alarming.

This highlights a definitive weakness and deficiency in the mission of NCAA. NCAA seems to be abdicating its responsibility in this area. Statistically the number of aircraft movements to incidents will indicate that there is a greater probability for more disasters in this sector if proper steps aren’t quickly taken to ameliorate the risks and the trend vector. 

 This article is not meant to criticize or promote one aviation professional over another however it is meant to appeal to the common sense and reason of those that have the responsibility in making the laws that impact aviation to revisit a narrow and ultimately dangerous precedent.

Prominent aviation bodies such as the USA FAA, UK CAA, and other regulatory bodies in Europe do not have a mandated provision that stipulates that a certain type of professional head their safety organizations, the common thread is someone who is managerially competent with the support of highly sound professionals to support him/her.     

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