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6 months after, FG weighs option on acting NCAA DG

The federal government is weighing several options on the appointment of a substantive Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). This is coming six…

The federal government is weighing several options on the appointment of a substantive Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). This is coming six months after the appointment of Capt Chris Najomo as acting DG by President Bola Tinubu on the recommendation of the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development,  Festus Keyamo.

Recall that Tinubu in December 13, 2023, fired all heads of aviation agencies.

However, in the NCAA, the federal government suspended the DG, Capt. Musa Nuhu, and replaced him with Capt. Najomo in acting capacity. Najomo was formerly the Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection in the authority.

But the suspension of the substantive DG, who took over in March, 2020, with a five-year tenure, generated uneasy calm in the sector.

Daily Trust reports that going by the provisions of the Civil Aviation Act 2022,  the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) or the NCAA DG can only be removed by a two-third majority of the National Assembly after having been found guilty of wrongdoing or abuse of office.

PART IV (3) of the act reads: “The Director-General may be removed from office by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate, where he— (a) becomes of unsound mind or is incapable of carrying out his duties as a result of physical or mental illness or has demonstrated inability to effectively perform the duties of his office ; (b) has been absent from five consecutive meetings of the Board without the consent of the Chairman unless he shows good reason for such absence ; (c) is guilty of serious misconduct ; (d) in the case of a person possessed of professional qualifications, is disqualified or suspended from practicing his profession in any part of the world by an order of a competent authority; or, Section 4 of the Part also adds, “The director-general shall not be removed from office except in accordance with the provisions of this act.”

Six months after Capt Najomo was appointed, Daily Trust reports that there is disquiet over the absence of a substantive DG.

While the acting DG has been enaged in the running the organisation since his appointment, including championing key reforms in the civil aviation, he cannot be confirmed without the resignation of the substantive DG, who is said to be unwilling to resign.

Sources said his decision was to protect his name and global reputation based on his conviction that he had not done anything wrong to warrant his  removal.

Musa was Nigeria’s Permanent Representative in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) prior to his appointment.

Those close to him said he believed resigning was tantamount to admittance of guilt which might soil his international reputation and deny him of opportunities in the future.

Daily Trust learnt that there had been a mounting pressure on the DG to tender his resignation, but that he was not backing down on his decision to clear himself.

Amid the impasse, the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, penultimate week, issued a statement to the effect that Capt Najomo remained the acting DG and that there’s no vacuum in the agency.

Our correspondent learnt that the federal government was exploring various options on resolving the impasse since the acting DG could not act indefinitely as it would be against the public service rule which provided a maximum of six months for acting appointment.

A source said, “The federal government is looking at various options to resolve the lingering issues. For now, the acting DG remains in office and is performing his official duties and responsibilities to the satisfaction of those who appointed him.

“But again, it is either way. It’s either he’s confirmed or another person is appointed as the substantive DG. This is not impossible. The government is still persuading the suspended DG to tender his resignation. But I can tell you there are many options on the table. What is important is that there are no lacuna as the ministry has pointed out.”

‘Keyamo is free to work with his own DG’

The sack of all heads of agencies was seen as a continuation of the age-long tradition in the industry where each new minister appointed his own CEOs of the agencies.

At the time the president sacked all heads of agencies, none of them had completed their tenure as provided in the various acts.

General Secretary of Aviation Roundtable and Safety Initiative, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, said the solution lay in institutionalising the appointment process through a head-hunting process.

However, he said there was no cause for alarm as the acting DG remaied fully in charge.

He said, “I don’t think there is anything to worry about. There is an acting DG, and the acting DG is working. Forget the section of the media being used to push an atmosphere of confusion. Nobody is contesting his position, and he can remain acting as long as the government wants him.

“The problem cannot be solved with just the act alone, but picking a part of the act to work with. What is appropriate is giving it to a reputable head-hunting organisation to advertise the position, select two or three and present to the government who will now pick one.

“They want the act that will give them job security and guarantee but not the one that will pick fairly, everybody just comes and brings his own candidate. What the minister has done is nothing new. So, if Keyamo says he wants his own candidate, then so be it.

“If we can address the problem of going through the inner man head hunting process, this tension will not be there; because when you head hunt somebody, you know he has a five-year contract and he must finish that contract then you can have the option of renewing it or not. That is not the case here. Everybody wants their candidate and they will look for an excuse.

“This time around, the only thing they can do is to suspend and that is what Captain Nuhu has gotten. Moreover, the EFCC has not denied that he does not have issues. Again, anybody can write a petition against you and you get suspended pending when the case is completed and do you know when it will get completed?”

A former Commandant of the Nigeria Airforce at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd), blamed the tension on what he called “fighting between the political office holders’ divided interests and institutional corruption within the government agencies.

“I have asked why would the Minister of Aviation remove all the agencies’ heads and their directors and kept only one who is his relative? Najomo was once the Director of the Directorate of Air Transport Regulations in the NCAA, that was moved to the Consumers Protection Directorate for whatever reasons.

“The minister has come out publicly to say the NCAA is messy, but up till now, he has not set up investigation panel and nobody has heard from the EFCC. It is all a political game and the institutional corruption in government agencies.”

EFCC mum on probe

There was no official comment from the EFCC on the outcome of the probe of NCAA’s suspended DG six months after.

Dele Oyewale, spokesman of EFCC, who was contacted, did not respond to our correspondent’s enquiry on the probe of the CAA.

No confusion over acting DG’s appointment – Ministry

Odutayo Oluseyi, Head, Press and Public Affairs in the ministry, in the statement issued on June 19, said, “The appointment of Capt Chris Najomo in acting capacity was based on the suspension of the former Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority by Mr President based on an ongoing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on allegations of corruption against him.

“This clarification has become expedient in order not to create unnecessary tension and disaffection in the civil aviation industry.

“There is no worry at all about the tenure of Mr Chris Najomo as he remains the acting director-general of NCAA.”

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