Keyamo Sacks 33 Aviation Directors Appointed By Sirika

Festus Keyamo

Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo has sacked 33 directors under his ministry.

Aviation experts on Thursday described the development as a “clean sweep and reversal of the last-minute appointments” made by the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari when Senator Hadi Sirika was minister of Aviation.

Sirika, on May 23, 2023, a week before the expiration of the Buhari administration, appointed 33 directors and also appointed a new managing director for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

He also created directorates that were hitherto non-existent in all the agencies.

But six months later, all the appointees have been sacked in a major shake-up that caught even those affected unawares.

This came a few hours after chief executives of aviation agencies were relieved of their appointments without prior knowledge of their impending sack.

Daily Trust learnt that most of the chief executive officers were outside the country when the announcement was made and read about their sack on newspaper pages or on social media. Two different events were held outside  the country last week with the ministers and the agencies’ heads in attendance.

The first was the 15th International Civil Aviation Negotiation Event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and then the ICAO meeting in Canada.

President Tinubu on Wednesday, December 14, through a statement by the Presidential Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, approved the suspension, removal and replacement of the chief executive officers of the agencies under the aviation ministry.

The agencies are FAAN, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), NAMA, Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the College of Aviation Technology (NCAT).

Kabir Yusuf Mohammed of FAAN was replaced with Mrs Olubunmi Oluwaseun Kuku; NAMA’s Tayib Adetunji Odunowo was replaced with Engr. Umar Ahmed Farouk; NSIB’s Engr. Akinola Olateru was replaced by Mr. Alex Badeh Jr. as the substantive Director-General while NIMET’s DG, Prof. Mansur Bako Matazu, was replaced with Prof. Charles Anosike, and NCAT Rector, Capt. Alkali Mahmud Modibbo was replaced by Mr. Joseph Shaka Imalighwe as Acting Rector. The Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Shuaibu Nuhu, was suspended from office while Capt. Chris Najomo assumes office as the Acting DG.

“Nobody saw it coming,” a source in one of the agencies said.

The Minister of Aviation, Mr. Festus Keyamo, was at a conference of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) along with all the agencies’ CEOs last week.

“None of them had the inkling that their sack would be this soon,” another source said.

Gone after six months in office

In a follow-up statement by the aviation ministry, signed by the Head of Press and Public Affairs, Odutayo Oluseyi, it asked all the directors to hand over to the most senior persons in their departments or directorates.

The statement read: “Following the change in the leadership of the Aviation and Aerospace Development Agencies’ CEOs and MDs aimed to reposition the aviation industry and ensure safety and efficient air travel experience by Nigerians in line with the Renewed Hope agenda of Mr President, I am directed to inform all directors of the following agencies that they have been relieved of their appointments forthwith and should hand over to the most senior officer in their various directorates with immediate effect.

“I am also to inform all the agencies’ board secretaries and legal advisers that they are not affected by this directive.

“All affected directors are to ensure strict compliance, please.”

Our correspondent reports that the development is already generating mixed reactions in the industry with many stakeholders divided over the ‘reorganization’ carried out by the government.

But a former general manager with FAAN, Alhaji Abubakar Bibi, commended Keyamo for what he called “the bold step of reorganising the industry.”

He said the sack would enable the minister to clear the Augean stable by reversing the last-minute appointments of Sirika.

Bibi said Keyamo had proved that he was ready to work and understood the workings of the system despite not being an aviator. He called on stakeholders to support him.

Bibi, who was the manager of Ilorin Airport, Bauchi, Sokoto, and Benue, among others before retiring, also called for the harmonisation of the departments in the agencies to improve the efficiency of their operations.

Also speaking, the General Secretary of Aviation Roundtable, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, said it is within the right of the government to hire and fire. He also hailed the spread in the appointments.

He said, “Government is a continuum. If the government says it is time to change, then it is time to change. It didn’t come as a surprise to us in the industry, including those who were removed, considering that the appointments were made on the 29th of May and the new minister would want to work with his team.

“I don’t have any sentiment for any individual. I have a feeling with the system. The problem is if those who are being appointed would be able to deliver, but time will tell.”

A union leader and former General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Olayinka Abioye, said the mass sack is not surprising.

He said, “It is expected since the new Sheriff came to town and this is very interesting to some of us. I am saddened, however, that some directors who had been in the saddle normally and doing well have been swept away by this executive tsunami though expected since the immediate aviation minister abused his powers and office to appoint hundreds of people into various positions; some of them were not even fit in the first instance. And this came just a few months to his leaving office as minister.

“This should not have happened if we are disciplined enough as Nigerians. This sack has therefore affected many old and hardworking directors and those 11th-hour directors who were forcefully thrust upon our heads and it seems like a good riddance to bad rubbish.

“The new minister having secured the approval of his principal, now has the opportunity to choose diligently suitably qualified personnel as new directors given the new impetus of the administration to raise the bar of passenger comfortability, ease of doing business, upgrade of infrastructures and staff wellbeing.

“I do hope that Minister Keyamo will not make the mistake of the past by bringing every Tom, Dick and Harry into the system as a way of compensating them.”

The Deputy General Secretary of the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN), Comrade Frances Akinjole, also said the sack was expected, saying the unions would study the new appointees.

He said the unions complained about the last-minute appointments of the last administration, advising the minister to be fair in replacing the sacked directors

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