Despite the uproar that has greeted the replacement of top agency heads in the aviation industry with days left to the end of his tenure, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace, Hadi Sirika has said that the re-organisation process will continue until May 29.
The minister who made this known during the commissioning of the N2.2 billion expansion of the first phase of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, on Monday, said he has the backing of the president.
In the last 72 hours, two agency heads have been replaced, with more expected to follow.
On Monday, Sirika appointed Engr. Tayib Adetunji Odunowo as the new Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), in place of Matthew Pwajok, who had been in acting capacity since February 2022.
This comes less than 48 hours after he replaced the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Rabiu Yadudu with Kabir Yusuf Mohammed.
This move by the minister has received backlash from stakeholders who argued that the last minute appointments looks suspicious with just six days to the end of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ART), an industry think tank described the activities of Sirika, days to the end of his tenure as capricious and unwarranted.
The group in a statement signed by Olumide Ohunayo frowned at any decision of the minister to appoint a new Director General, Managing Directors or Directors at the twilight of the present administration.
ART further explained that the move forecloses the opportunity for new presidential appointees that will be more suited to the agenda of the incoming administration.
The statement read in part: “The ART is of the view that a more appropriate action would have been to nominate a new candidate for appointment by the incoming Minister and there is nothing wrong in extending for a further 30 days, the term of the existing Managing Director and Directors on a transitional basis, to enable the new administration pick the men/ woman to driver their agenda.
“It is the hope of the ART that the incoming President will attend to these challenges expeditiously.
“For eight (8) solid years The Minister of Aviation appropriated the required governance structure under his personal control by neglecting to appoint the statutory Governing Boards required to ease the functions of the agencies and parastatals under him.
“The ART is of the opinion that this amongst other actions taken by the Minister regressed rather than grow the organizations. The Minister’s direct control resulted in transactional rather than functional operation of the agencies, thereby impeding their progress and his rating”.
The group added that the minister, through his micromanagement activities has further demonstrated the need to scrap the Ministry of Aviation and place the various departments with proper governance structures back in the Ministry of Transport, while granting independence to Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority under the appropriate internationally recognised structures for regulating the Nigerian aviation sector to achieve global best practices.
However, while speaking with journalists on Monday, Sirika insisted that the removal of the MDs received the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister explained that government is a continuum, and the affected heads of agencies have had their time to serve the country, which has elapsed.
He said: “The reorganisation approved by Mr. President is an ongoing process and it will continue to go on. There is nothing under the carpet if it is being approved by Mr. President. So, government is continuum; they had their timeline, tenure to come in and time to go. We all have our time to go.
“This is governance and it is a serious business. Whatever action or inaction you are taking, you are taking it on behalf of over 200 million people.
“There has been a new Accountant General of the Federation, there has been a new Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board, North East Development Commission (NEDC) and so many others. So, why me? Why is aviation the focus? What is the intention? What do you want to achieve? Why me?”
Commenting on achievements of the ministry under his leadership, Sirika pointed out that the Buhari administration improved the sector more than it met it.
According to him, the government doubled the number of airlines, airports and quadrupled the number of passengers in the last eight years.
He stressed that the seriousness attached to it by the government made the industry the second in the world to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic after Colombia.