BEFORE THE END OF THE MONTH, NIGERIA’S REPRESENTATIVE, DR OLUMIDE BERNARD ALIU, WILL BE SWORN IN AS THE PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANISATION (ICAO) COUNCIL IN MONTREAL, CANADA. ROLAND OGBONNAYA LOOKs AT THE DELIBERATION OF THE 38TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF ICAO AND HOW OTHER COUNTRIES COURTED NIGERIA FOR THAT POSITION IN CANADA
Ordinarily, the Nigerian Civil Aviation should be fretting over who assumes the presidency of the International Civil Aviation Organisation ICAO Presidency as the 38th Session of the Assembly gets underway in Montreal, Canada next month. But Nigeria is at peace with the world body that is saddled with the responsibility of regulating aviation worldwide after the second stage of the election where Nigeria scored a total of 149 votes in the General Assembly meeting held recently. This is highest vote so far for Nigeria since the country joined the organisation. The highest ever vote garnered by Nigeria before now was 143.
Interestingly, this put Nigeria in the first three for the main elections. However, it is fait accompli for the country as no other country has indicated interest in vying for the post of the President of ICAO. And indeed no other country can do that now after the mandatory number of dates to file in for the election had elapsed.
As it is, Nigeria’s Dr. Olumide Bernard Aliu is as good as being addressed as the next President of ICAO: the first black man to be given such a status in ICAO since the body was formed several years ago by the United Nations to regulate aviation. Aliu has been Nigeria’s representative at the ICAO council located at 999 Rue University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in the last 16 years after he replaced Mr. Enuojokan.
Although Nigeria enjoys much support in ICAO, it was not easy getting other countries to queue behind Aliu for the prestigious position, which indeed turns around the practice of aviation worldwide. When it was inevitable that the position will be declared vacant before the 38th General Assembly of the Council, Nigeria began subtle moves to get the endorsement of so many friendly countries including the Americas and the South America group. Even some of the European member countries bought into the Nigerian project.
Interestingly, in the run-up to the contest for a new president for the ICAO, the African Union Ministers responsible for Civil Aviation said Aliu, is the best candidate for the presidency, when they met in Abuja during the meeting of the Ministers of Civil Aviation in Africa. The AU ministers subsequently adopted Dr. Aliu as its candidate for the presidency. The adoption came also by the African heads of states when they met in Addis Ababa at a summit four months ago.
Truly, it was here that the Africans realised that the continent needed to be speaking with unified voice on issues of continental significance. Significantly it was Ghana’s Minister of Transport, Hon. Collins Daudu, who took the initiative and said “we commit to promote the candidature of Dr. O.B Aliu of Nigeria for the presidency of ICAO in 2013.” Also, the Chairman of the Bureau of AU Transport Ministers’ Conference, Mr. Augusto da Silva Tomas, Minister of Transport, Angola and Chairman of Bureau of African Transport Ministers Conference, says all should support Aliu’s candidacy. The Secretary General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Elijah Chingosho, states that AFRAA approves Aliu’s candidature because “he is the best man for the job.” Da Silva, who was at the Nigerian office in Montreal after the second stage of the election, was happy that he did not go wrong when he supported Aliu’s candidacy.
ICAO has not had an African as President of its Council, thus making Aliu’s bid and possible win remarkable. It is believed that Aliu’s presidency of ICAO Council will enhance Africa’s image and strengthen the continent’s pursuit of improved safety and development.
Aliu has been representative of Nigeria in ICAO since January 2005. He has served as the First Vice President of the ICAO Council and the Chairperson of the Steering Committee of AFI Comprehensive Implementation Programme (ACIP) charged with the implementation of the AFI Plan – a major safety initiative of ICAO for African States. He has chaired and served in several regional and sub-regional experts committees of the African Union (AU), the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Banjul Accord Group (BAG).
He has over the past two decades closely involved with the development and evolution of air transport policies in Africa, including the Yamoussoukro Decision on liberalisation of Air Transport in Africa, as well as the development of a Common African Civil Aviation Policy, a programme initiated by him and approved by the Committee of Ministers and the AU Assembly
They wanted to support Nigeria and were asking for collaboration in Climate change and other areas that need to be regulated, which must be voted for at the congress. With that, the aviation ministry ensured that besides the representatives of the different countries who are resident in Montreal, the officials toured more than 20 countries and used every available opportunity to plead for support for Aliu who is widely accepted by the other countries except some African countries who are becoming worried about Nigeria’s strides and positive changes in the Aviation Industry.
Aliu, who before the second voting of the Congress on Saturday, September 28, refused to make any comment on the election and his position due to the laws guiding the conduct of ICAO elections, was excited that after the second part of the election, which stands Nigeria in good stead to be part of the final lap later this month, confessed it was not an easy job for Nigeria, which started the move since last year when it was announced that the incumbent ICAO President was going having served out his mandatory tenure.
The Nigerian representative explained to a gathering at the Nigeria’s embassy, that he owes all the gratitude to the ministry and the Federal Government for providing the much needed support.
He also told the gathering at the Delta Hotel, Montreal that the efforts would have come to zero but the developments that have taken place in Nigeria, which made it much easier for the candidature. “ I don’t think that even if I know all the representatives in ICAO, it could have been easy. The Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah and the Foreign Affairs Ministry through the different missions did a lot of work. Of course, there have been positive changes, which ICAO confirmed and knew we did a lot of work to change the face of air transport in Africa. The 149 votes we scored during the election of Saturday September 28, is the highest we have garnered since we joined the organisation about 50 years ago. We toured many countries, sometimes just spending few hours in a country and taking off again to another. But we owe a lot to the minister and the president”
The Managing Director of Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Mazi Nnamdi Udoh, who also spoke during the Congress, did not express surprise that no candidate was standing for the election with Aliu. “The successes so far recorded by Nigeria at home and abroad are now attracting a lot of interests from several countries who have come to realise that we have done a lot of work to improve on our safety and other areas of aviation. Before some of the foreign airlines would not want to come to Nigeria, but now they want more routes. Our air space is safer and we are not resting on that. We are moving ahead,” he said.
Dr. Anthony Anuforom, the Director General of NIMET who also spoke to THISDAY during the congress said ‘It is interesting how far we have gone from where we were 15 years ago. If you look at the picture before now and where we are now, you will agree that we are now being accepted and given our due respect both in Africa and the world stage. We are now a force to be reckoned with. We have the equipment that can be compared with any country and better than so many.
“Our improvements are enormous. And we are moving ahead to do more with the support of the Government. Aviation is a global thing and revenue earner. We are moving to the stage where we can now earn revenue for government and also do more for the industry,’’ he emphasised.
To the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, since the United Nations decided to create the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) every black man should be proud that a Nigerian is going to assume the Presidency of the body. Oduah, not living out any opportunity to slip, addressed a gathering of member countries at the ICAO headquarters in Montreal, Canada. She disclosed that the Nigerian delegation to the 38th General Assembly of ICAO was excited that “we have come a long way in Africa and will continue to lead,” while giving thanks to President Goodluck Jonathan for supporting the candidature of Aliu who has been Nigeria’s representative at the ICAO Council.
To the minister, Nigeria should be accorded respect as the country had done so much in the past two years and had continuously ensured that the work being done is according to the standards of the World Body. “Nigeria should be accorded respect. Nigeria has done far well than in the past and has continuously endeavoured to improve. What has been accomplished in the past two years is mind-boggling. Equipment, training, and airspace management has been institutionalised. Nigeria Airspace Management and NIMET now have a clear road map. We have to set the pace. Nigeria is the natural place. Civil aviation has gone beyond regional level.”
She said that Nigeria must do all that ICAO had recommended for the growth of the industry.