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FG trains 127 pilots, aircraft engineers

…as NASS ponders local content bill for aviation industry

A HUNDRED and twenty seven pilots and aircraft engineers have been trained by the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, which oversees the Presidential Amnesty Program for former militants in the area.
Speaking at the unveiling event in Lagos last weekend, the senate president, David Mark, confirmed to aviation correspondents that the pilots and aircraft engineers were trained at the Africa Union Aviation Academy, Mafikeng and Flight Training Services, both in South Africa; Lufthansa Flight Training Network, Germany; Fujairah Aviation Academy, United Arab Emirates; Jetstream Aviation Academy, Greece; and Royal Jordanian Air Academy, Jordan.
The Senate President, who was represented by the Senate Deputy Leader, Abdul Ningi, said the National Assembly would continue to support the Presidential Amnesty Program for the training of youths in the country in order to close the gaps in manpower needs in the aviation industry.
Ningi also disclosed to journalists that the National Assembly is pondering a revolutionary local content regulation bill for Nigeria's aviation industry which will mandate both domestic and foreign airlines operating in the country to set aside a number of indigenous pilots and engineers that would be engaged.
National Daily gathered that the proposed bill is part of efforts to deepen local participation in the aviation sector where there is influx of expatriates as pilots, aircraft engineers and other aviation professionals.
According to the Senate President, the bill has become imperative as one of the ways of creating an avenue for Nigerian aviation professionals to get jobs in the aviation sector, which is currently dominated by expatriates.
"The amnesty programme is working. It is one of the programs initiated by the government that is adding value. The National Assembly will continue to support it. It is for this reason that the National Assembly is going to create legislation for local content regulation in the aviation sector. The legislation would make it mandatory for airlines, whether local or foreign, to employ a certain number of Nigerian professionals as pilots and aircraft engineers. This we would pursue as much as it does not conflict with international regulations," he said.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, also said it will give speedy passage to the bill to be initiated by the Upper House to protect the interest of Nigeria and create jobs for indigenous professionals in the strategic aviation sector.
Tambuwal spoke through chairman of the House Committee on Niger Delta, Hon. Warman Ogoriba.
Also speaking at the event, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Aviation, Captain Shehu Usman Iyal, said the relevant agencies of government were collaborating to ensure that pilots and aircraft engineers type-rated after their training from the amnesty program were absorbed in the aviation sector.
Iyal described the type-rating of 66 pilots and 61 aircraft engineers as historic in the aviation sector, affirming that their engagement would help to fill the gap of ageing indigenous professionals in the aviation sector.
He said the move by the National Assembly to create legislation for local content is key because in some countries of the world, such laws have been created as an avenue to give jobs to their qualified aviation professionals.
"We will liaise with the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and indeed the Amnesty Office to provide jobs for these trainees. The office has its list and their qualifications. Some are pilots of helicopters; some are for fixed wings while some have more training to do. We will start with the database and from there we know where we will place them.
“This is good for the development of the Nigerian aviation industry. The Amnesty Office has done very well. I have seen a bigger number sent for training. Kano sent 100 trainee pilots to Jordan for training.
“But, what is striking and unique about this is that besides the military, no civil organization has been able to graduate this large number of pilots. It didn't even happen during the days of the defunct Nigeria Airways. To have 66 pilots, 61 engineers graduating at the same time; I think this is phenomenal. It is something that has to be celebrated. This is something we as Nigerians should be proud of, and we should be proud of these young Nigerians. This is going to bridge the manpower gap for the successive generation. Some of us as pilots have aged and these are the young professionals that will take over from us," he said.
Iyal aligned his thoughts with the proposed local content legislation in the aviation industry, describing it as one of the best things to happen to the aviation sector.
He said: "That (the legislation) will be excellent. In fact, in places like Malaysia, Indonesia they have specific rules and regulations whereby any operator that comes in must employ an indigene of that country as a co-pilot or trainee engineer to understudy the expatriate pilot or engineer. So, it is an excellent idea and I can assure you that Nigerian pilots, engineers and technicians have what it takes to fly or work on any machine in any part of the world.
“The President is concerned and that is one of the areas we are looking into and we are going to work with the Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Program to look into that."
On whether the young pilots will be automatically absorbed for jobs, Iyal said: "That is a possibility. They have gone as far as giving them jet conversion. That goes a long way. When you get jet conversion, it is an advantage and it goes a long way. This is the area we are going to look into. This other 200 that are unemployed, what can we do for them because the opportunities are there? The job is there; the machines are there."
In his remarks, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, urged airline owners and players in the aviation and allied sector to employ the young pilots and aircraft engineers, who have the requisite competence and licenses, having being trained in some of the foremost institutions across the globe.
The 127 aviation professions, Kuku said, have been trained to the level that it would be difficult for any organization to deride them as incompetent.
“The Nigerian government will take further steps to complete on-duty-training for these pilots and aircraft engineers to make it difficult for any employer to reject them," Kuku added.

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