Relevant stakeholders especially in the private sector were conspicuously absent from a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives on three executive bills on the aviation sector.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, while declaring the hearing open, asked for identification of representatives of the private sector at the event.
Gbajabiamila said, “The whole idea of public hearing is for people, interested parties to be present; to contribute whatever observations they have. At the end of the public hearing, the stakeholders from the private sector that didn’t show up for the public hearing, when the bill is about to be passed or when it is passed; then, they will begin to complain. As you can see now, not a single person from the private sector is here. There is the need for the private sector to be at public hearings. When a bill is passed, it may be too late to do anything.”
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, also expressed surprise over the non-appearance.
“The private sector that was a couple of weeks ago in the Senate for this same exercise is completely absent at today’s hearing at the House of Representatives. Also, we have been on this for five years; been through six stakeholders conferences. After that, we gave them the bills seven months ago, to go through and we have received some comments from them about that. I am very curious to know why they are not here.”
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had transmitted a letter to both the Senate and the House, seeking consideration and passage of six Aviation Sector Bills.
The bills include Civil Aviation Bill 2019, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Bill 2019, Nigerian College of Airspace Management Agency Establishment Bill 2019.
Others are Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Establishment Bill 2019, Nigerian Meteorological Agency Establishment Bill 2019 and Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau Establishment Bill 2019.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress, at the hearing, warned against the introduction of obnoxious clauses to the bills, which it said are inconsistent with the general practice of lawmaking. The union alleged that there was an attempt to smuggle provisions from the labour laws into the proposed amendments.
President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, who presented the position of the Organised Labour on the bills at the hearing, said the planned amendment would place the sector as one that offers essential service and be under the regulation of the minister, a function already given to the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity in the labour laws.
Wabba also stated that workers are concerned about attempts to use the current review of the Aviation Acts to introduce obnoxious provisions that are inconsistent with the general practice of lawmaking, saying, “We are concerned that provisions that are solely domiciled in our national labour laws are being imported into the proposed amendment to the Aviation Act under consideration.
“We caution that this is out of sync with global best practices especially as provided for by the core Conventions of the International Labour Organisation, which Nigeria has been signatory to for over 60 years and had signed up to more than 60 years ago. If such obnoxious provisions could find their way into our aviation laws review in 2020, we wonder if we are making progress or beating backwards after sixty years as a sovereign country.”
Chairman of the committee, Mr Nnolim Nnaji, also said, “The need for these enabling Acts to be repealed and subsequent re-enactment of the new Acts are glaring, considering the urgent need to meet the contemporary demands and international standards for the general development of the aviation sector.
“It is pertinent to note that since the last review of these agencies, significant changes and developments have taken place in the aviation industry which necessitates the review and amendment of these Acts, so as to bring them up to date with the operational requirements and dictates of the industry.
“Further to that, there is a compelling need to align the sector with the international best practices as outlined in the International Civil Aviation Organisation guidelines.”