• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Concerns mount over FG’s N2.3bn aircraft assembling project

Concerns mount over FG’s N2.3bn aircraft assembling project

Concerns have been raised over the sustainability of the federal government’s proposed N2.3 billion local assemblage of Magnus training aircraft project in Zaria, Kaduna State.

With the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ending in a few months, stakeholders have expressed concerns on its plans to keep the project sustainable, especially after projects such as the national carrier have failed to kick off after funds have been put into it.

They said a private sector-driven aircraft assemblage project would have been more sustainable than one driven by the government.

“Track record speaks volumes of what your intentions are. It is obviously a good thing if due process is carried out and there is a private sector partnership with the manufacturing company to come to Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) Zaria and do the assembling,” Ibrahim Mshelia, owner of West Link Airlines Nigeria and Mish Aviation Flying School, said.

“The project is a good one because it will offer the trainees opportunity to learn practical skills but the antecedent of this current administration over projects gives me fear that this is another private business being funded by the Nigerian government,” he added.

Mshelia said the government should not be the one paying for the project, rather it should be private sector-driven or the company should be paying NCAT for using their facility.

“This current administration is fond of wastages. I don’t think there is a plan for sustainability,” he said.

“If the project is a clear and transparent project where the private sector was investing, this would have been one of the best projects to do in the aviation sector because NCAT is a training institute and if we are going to assemble an aircraft, we need the engineers to learn how to assemble and repair them.”

The federal government last week approved the sum of N2.3 billion for local assemblage of Magnus training aircraft at NCAT Zaria, Kaduna State.

Nigeria will assemble the Sentinel variant locally, while Magnus will supply dozens of its aerobatic Fusion UL training aircraft.

With the completion period for the project estimated to be 18 months, concerns have been raised on whether the next administration would keep the project up and running on, before and after the 18 months duration.

Olumide Ohunayo, an aviation analyst, described the aircraft assembling project as one of the last-minute investments being made before the end of the administration.

Ohunayo said: “The aircraft should not only be useful to NCAT but also to some security agencies for monitoring of the borders, agriculture, and technology, amongst others. We may also be able to sell to neighbouring countries or countries within the region that need such aircraft.

“If there is a possibility that the aircraft is marketable, then it is a good investment but if it is just for NCAT to use, then we may need to ask questions on why the country is investing as much as N2.3 billion for the project. We have to produce aircraft that will serve not only for training but for other purposes.”

The choice of Zaria, according to him, is a good one as the institution needs aircraft trainers for its student pilots.

Read also: FG approves N2.3bn for local assemblage of Magnus training aircraft

Magnus Aircraft is an aviation company based in Hungary that specialises in the production of UL, LSA, and VLA type aircraft (Ultra-light and Very light aircraft). These aircraft are mostly for chartered operations or used as training aircraft in aviation schools.

John Ojikutu, security consultant and secretary general of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, told BusinessDay that even if NCAT has to contract the project out to the private enterprise, it is still its responsibility and not the ministry’s.

According to Ojikutu, the aviation ministry has for too long been doing the jobs of the public agencies for them and no one is held responsible if something goes wrong within the agencies that have no governing boards.

He said: “This also answers the questions of sustainability should something go wrong. The ministry should allow Zaria to function under the Act that established it and accounts for the good, the bad and the ugly in its care. The records of the use, repair and maintenance are going to be with NCAT, not the ministry.

“Moreover, NCAT should have budget allocations for project development in addition to its six percent shares on ticket sales charge and cargo sales charges from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority; where is the N2.3 billion coming from? From the ministry or NCAT?”

He said the Nigeria Air Force had in the 1980s assembled the Air Beetle training aircraft in the Dornier Hangar in Kaduna for the primary training of pilots, adding that the NCAT did the same with the Tampico from France for pilot initial training.