By Olu Ayela
ALTHOUGH the aviation sector has chalked up seventy five years in existence, long before Nigeria gained independence, FAAN became a key partner in the activities of independence and a key celebrant who having provided the means of transportation for the most of the officials for the landmark event. The authority made history and has been consistent since then in the face of many of the airlines who hav e used the facilities and have fallen by the wayside. It is not just because it is a government agency, but it is the spirit of diligence and resilience that has been carved into the DNA of the authority over the years. After all, the national carrier was also a government agency opened to the same level of interference. The difference is certainly not of kind but of degree.
That tradition of flexibility and strength in the face of adversity has become a generational trait in the authority becoming the backbone of the success so far recorded. It is a bragging to which one of the titans of the aviation industry, Captain Rabiu Yadudu can lay claim to as a banner of meritorious service. Captain Yadudu’s style of operation is unique and distinct and that is his mark as the Authority gradually breaks through the dark clouds of COVID-19. Beyond his sterling qualities that speaks volume for him, the man has seen virtually all that makes for an airport systems that meet internationally acceptable standard. With his appointment in May 2019, the man has kept his sight rigidly fixed on the mission statement of FAAN which has become his operation manual. In line with the expectation of the commitment of FAAN “to develop and profitably manage customer-centric airport facilities for safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world-class standards of quality,” the man has neither waiver to the left or taken a flight of fancy to the right in breach of the demands of FAAN.
The innumerable distractions that are some of the pitfalls of the work including incoherent air transport policy, bad management, decaying facilities, loose security, closure of airports, intermittent air crashes has not deterred him from ensuring that there must be strict compliance with safety which is the bedrock of the aviation industry. He is an unrepentant enthusiast for the strict application of regulations for the sustenance of the aviation industry, combining efficiency and effectiveness in operations without compromising the comfort of the passengers around whom everything revolves.
Captain Yadudu wears experience in the aviation industry as an emblem. His career is a litany of success stories interspersed with some of the challenges that are expected as the hazards of the job. He is in his elements in Aircraft Operations as he is comfortable in airport personnel and facilities management, rising from the post of the Director of Airport Operations (DAO), of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) into the helm of authority in the Authority. He is an International Civil Aviation Organization/Airport Council International (ICAO/ACI) accredited international airport professional who came into the office highly prepared and duly motivated for the work and part of the results were the Aerodromes Certifications of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, in 2017.
His certification includes training as a pilot and he captained a B747, Citation Sovereign and the Learjet 45XR with over 7000hrs of flying time under his belt, alongside being an experienced Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Avionics). He is confident in the air as he is on the ground. He is the proverbial round peg roundly fitting into the round hole of aviation matters. His strength is known to in his ability for insisting on professionalism.
Expectedly, because of his desire to boost morale of the workforce and build on existing facilities, he pitched on strategic areas as anchor for his tenure especially in human capacity development, development and utilization, infrastructure upgrade and maintenance and improvement in processes & procedures. The areas so identified were designed to bring about a holistic revamp of the airport authority under his watch. Prior to his ascension to the office of the Managing Director, Captain Yadudu had devoted himself to understanding what is necessary to propel the Authority to a level that it begins to work with precision. He had prepared extensively and made the complex procedures as simple as possible through the identification of bottle necks that had impeded effective service delivery. The outcomes were tremendous reforms in safety, security, which have boosted the confidence, capability and competence of the eight thousand strong workforces.
With the understanding that knowledgeable people can bring rapid transformation and improve on service delivery, he upgraded the FAAN Training School at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos to a global standard. Following the upgrade was a certification that has made the school one of the ICAO accredited Aviation Security Training Centre, a step towards attaining the ICAO Trainer status. What a huge impetus that little changes can bring as the school has become a hosting facility for ACI and ICAO training programs.
The deepening of knowledge under him extended to issues of continuous training and capacity building and touched staff in the most sensitive areas in the airport namely in aviation security, fire and rescue, operations, safety and engineering departments, has received a new impetus. He adopted a strategy that will make the process to be fully internalized and owned by the Authority. He took on the train-the-trainer pattern through the Authority will train a class of fifty who would in turn step down the training for relevant staff. Accordingly, there will be no shortage of trainers in the Authority if the process is not truncated even in his absence.
In his restoration of the confidence of staff members, he also considered the primary reason why the airports were created, the passengers. Their safety, comfort and security were prioritized by him so he reactivated the cooling system which had made the arrival hall of the MMIA a sort of a cauldron for arriving passengers who would suddenly step into a hot and really contrasting climate from the cool interior of an arriving aircrafts. Other major changes at the airport included the airfield lighting at the Lagos aerodrome has been upgraded, The Passenger Boarding Bridges at the MMIA have been awarded for revival and for upgrade to world class levels, while approval has been secured for immediate resurfacing of the taxiway Bravo linking the Domestic and International wings.
There are other significant achievements that are difficult to be overlooked by any regular user of the Lagos airports. One of them is the menacing presence of a large colony of birds that have found them airport as habitable location. That is no mean feat because bird strike was almost synonymous with the Lagos airports and it was of serious concern to airline operators. Deploying a scientific management approach, the birds were eventually dislodged and the key flight path for all the aircraft have become a very safe runway.
Confident that the exercise that dispersed the colony of birds is not a fluke that it scientifically proven to work anywhere, he has directed that every airport that has been exposed to the problem be provided scientific bird/wildlife hazard management equipment and perhaps once and for all because of the farsightedness of Captain Yadudu millions of dollars have been saved for airlines and not to mention the innumerable lives that must have been saved.
In contemplation of absolutes in the primacy of knowledge for children and what heavy burden the cost of paying for the academic pursuit of their wards can impose on the workforce, he has begun a process of rewarding academic excellence among the children of the staff of the Authority. It is a novelty in FAAN, and it is an offer of a university education scholarships to the top five outstanding scholars of staff children from each of the federal regions.
In yet another bold intervention which came through Medicare, the FAAN Hospital at the Lagos Airport has undergone massive improvement with the installation of world class equipment and service level. The services are rendered free-of-charge to all FAAN Staff and stakeholders. Plans are now underway to replicate this across the FAAN regions nationwide. Medical supplies have also been decentralized to enable the various airports to be more responsive and flexible in attending to the specific needs of staff and other stakeholders. The medical services upgrade will also go a long way in ensuring easier certification of the nation’s airports.
Apparently, the competence level of Captain Yadudu is not only in aviation matters as he is equally well grounded and proficient in administration of men, utilization of materials and prudence in finances. Revenue generation has not only improved enormously but financial control systems to guarantee that leakages are minimized have ensured efficiency in the running of airport operations. Accordingly, one of the cash spots of the airport, the airport road toll operations are receiving attention with a view to up scaling its methods across the country as a veritable source of revenue.
Definitely, men like Yadudu are rare in government circle and at time of dire needs like we have as a nation, it will be prudent to keep them in service in the next 10years at least, like other serious climes to ensure even developments and boast their economies. Captain Yadudu possesses the capabilities to improve services and maximize what Nigeria has in the airport. At a time when global airlines seem to have lost over fifty percent of their revenue, it is important that whatever will further decimate what has been achieved in the process of repositioning the airports, should be discarded. Such cacophonous conversations like concession that is an ill wind that will only fan the embers of destruction should not be entertained by supervisory agencies and government officials with oversight responsibilities.
As a seasoned administrator, he is acutely aware that it is difficult if not impossible, to run the airports operations all alone. He has pushed inclusivity to a level hitherto unheard of in the work at the airport with the establishment of a working committee to review the financial standing of each airport to determine the viability and profitability of airports in Nigeria. What he would do with that report is wrapped in his wisdom and we cannot just wait to see it unfolding as it will be another masterstroke in the promotion of patronage for passengers as well as for cargo.
In an exemplary offer of public participation, he operationalized his relationship with stake holders including Customers, Operators, Regulators and all external stakeholders giving an unprecedented and an uninterrupted access through which complaints, suggestions, general enquiries are can be channeled directly to his office. He exemplified the saying that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. In one act of classic management style he told Nigerians that they have a say in the airport they want and deserve.
Intricately linked with the assessment of airports is the renewed efforts to incorporate the resolutions of the Airport Council International on Airport Service Quality Protocol. The initiative is to raise the bar of service for passengers. The protocol captures data relating to ease-of-connection, ambience of the airports, physical facilities like washrooms, executive lounges conditions and the quality of business. These data are analyzed, interpreted and would form the basis for services rendered to passengers.
Where there is administration without feedback, the consequence will be disorder. To avoid anarchy Captain Yadudu has established a scheme, with a dedicated telephone that is directly linked to him without interference and is devoid of any attempt for to use sentiments to provide answers to people reporting incidents on pressing issues, seeking redress or resolution of grievances about airport services. line is available for direct link to him. The outcome of this whittling down of bureaucratic bottleneck was a dramatic change in attitude to work by the management of the Authority, cuts the red-tape and allows direct incident reporting and grievance resolution. This initiative keeps even the Management Cadre on their toes and ensures improved performance across board.
Although the world is coming out of the gloomy days of lockdown due to the pandemic the Nigeria Airport Authority has been thinking sustainability and preparing a flight that is in sync with national growth. The potentials for world renown services are available and even with Nigeria aviation playing catch up for countries like Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and Kenya in the aviation industry, there is a silver lining in the cloud. It bear repeating that airports are critical in the air transport ecosystem which is a key driver of local, regional and national economies and the communities they serve, and this global economic multiplier effect needs to be safeguarded to help underpin recovery.
What is required for consolidation of these gains is for the master plans proposed by Captain Yadudu to be diligently implemented and Nigeria aviation will fly above the imaginations and expectations of the global aviation industry.
Olu Ayela, Veteran Journalist, based in Lagos
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