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*Aug 13, 2022*

For the past thirty-six days, I have not had any reason to be angry, raise my voice or contemplate strangling anyone in my mind. My mood has been mostly that of quiet contentment and a feeling of happiness that comes from spirituality.

All that dissipated the day we were scheduled to depart Jeddah to Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano via Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. The designated aircraft was Azman Air and even though I felt a little apprehension, I counselled myself to be optimistic that all would go well, Insha Allah.

Wahala started when the flight which was to transport the remainder of all NAHCON officials back to Nigeria was delayed for four hours, twice. As a Nigerian whose stratum corneum is already thickened by layers of mediocrity, corruption and ‘anyhowness’, I was not too worried. In fact, I went prepared with snack bars, juice boxes, travel pillow, praying mat and downloaded movies on Netflix (just in case the internet connection messed up). While waiting, I spread my prayer mat on the floor and took a nap. It was supposed to be an early morning flight and so we did not get much sleep at night.

We finally left Jeddah around 11:30 am and arrived Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at 2:45pm. An announcement was made for Abuja passengers to disembark and that we would be soon on our way to Kano Via Kaduna in a few minutes.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the few minutes they told us turned out to be six hours.

The first sign of distress was when the engines were turned off and the temperature in the cabin kept climbing higher. People started using the safety manual to fan themselves and after about forty-five minutes, we started grumbling and demanded to find out what was happening. I really believed the cabin crew at first when they said the plane was being refuelled. I had no reason to suspect a lie, but when after another thirty minutes passed with us seated in an increasingly hot and closed plane, our patience started to grow thin and before long demanded that the doors be opened. By this time women had begun to remove their hijabs and I remember smiling when I saw two women removing their scarf completely.
They no fit shout, the heat unbearable! All eight doors, including emergency exits were opened and before long we persuaded the cabin crew to allow us to disembark the aircraft. That is when we learned the truth- that there was no aviation fuel, the plane was not being refuelled and that they had no idea when the fuel was coming.

I swear to God, being a Nigerian should be a non-modifiable risk factor for Stroke.

There we were, with no idea when and if, the fuel would come. The crew denied us entry into the airport as we were not ideally in ‘transit’, so instead we had to lounge under the plane, right there on the tarmac. Some things have to be seen to be believed. If someone told me that one day, I would spread my praying mat on the tarmac, while using the airplane wings as shade or that we would be carrying out congregational Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha prayers on the tarmac, I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.

Yet here we were, more than 250 NAHCON officials stranded at the Airport with no source of credible information. We finished our snacks and lamented our fate. By 6pm, passengers going to Kaduna had already become agitated as their airport did not allow flights after 6pm due to the insecurity that plagued the road from the airport to town. Hunger and thirst, the foremost catalyst for agitation began to set in. People started to scream and small fights started to break out between passengers and crew members. To be fair, the crew members themselves looked haggard and defeated.

While waiting, we discussed the aviation fuel scarcity with the Azman crew. All jet fuel consumption in Nigeria is imported; this creates pressure on the jet fuel supply chain. Jet fuel supply companies, both indigenous and multinational, are privately owned with no state vested investment. Jet fuel is imported by these companies or by Intermediate Shore Depots (ISD) owners based on their business projections and financial resources. Hence, importation may not be sufficient to meet the national needs. Also, the importation timeline is not very well structured, and this arrangement can easily result in supply disruptions.

More importantly, the process of obtaining jet fuel import licences and other financial and fiduciary documents takes time. Setting up a contractual arrangement with foreign refineries also takes time and resources, as this may require travelling to the location of the refineries for discussions and to finalise the deal.

So why did we not refuel in Saudi Arabia? It is cheaper in Nigeria they said. Why did you not communicate that we would need fuel when we arrive in Nigeria so that the tank would be waiting for us on arrival. It is not that simple doc, they explained. The fuel is simply not available! The company in charge of supplying the fuel have not been able to procure the amount needed as this is a large aircraft. So, I said to them, aviation fuel has now become like petrol? Sometimes it is there, sometimes it disappears? Yes, doc, now you understand.

I shook my head incredulously. Around 7:30pm, about five hours later the Octane truck arrived and we heaved a sigh of relief. Gone was the fanfare and professionalism of checking our boarding passes and smiling while we boarded; Instead we were rounded up and pushed onto the plane similar to the way cattle are made to board a truck bound for the south.
Nearly six hours on the tarmac and I thought the worst was over. Apparently not.

For the second time, these people held us hostage in a plane, even after refuelling while we roasted in the heat. Suddenly, a woman fainted. Another woman started having an asthmatic attack. A man collapsed and yet another woman went into hypoglycaemic shock. Pandemonium broke everywhere. Luckily, they were more than 80 health workers on board. I also have to add here, that the first aid box on Azman airport was completely useless save for paracetamol and hydrocortisone. No emergency drug was available, fortunately we had ours.

Again, for the second time, I disembarked the aircraft and asked what the problem was.

I swear, when the man replied, I had to ask him to repeat it again. Maybe there was wax in my ear from drinking too much Saudi Laban.

Ladies and gentle men do you know what his reply was?

That the pushback truck responsible for pushing the aircraft from its parking position was nowhere to be found. The Azman staff was even quick to add that it was not their fault, that it was NAHCO’s (Nigerian Aviation Handling Company) fault that the vehicle was not available. What the hell??

All the spirituality and calmness that comes with hajj, dissipated in that moment. Why? For God’s sake why are we so damn incompetent? How do you keep passengers waiting for more than six hours in an airplane and on the tarmac without food and basic amenities? Men were entering the bushes to relieve themselves while we watched because the toilets on the plane had become ineffectual. Some toilets stank and some had to be closed permanently. Why were we not allowed to enter the airport terminal to wait like civilised individuals?

The four patients were resuscitated and only when the pushback car was sighted did we agree to return to the plane. The engines were promptly switched on and the AC came back on.

We arrived MAKIA at about 11: 40pm; angry, defeated and depressed. There was some drama at the Airport when we arrived as the electricity had gone off, but that is a story for another day.

As I lay my head that night, the painful realization that no one would be held responsible for our suffering hit me.

Nigeria, our home.

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Direct Flights Between Nigeria and Seychelles Soon, as both Countries Sign BASA



Following the approval of the Federal Executive Council of the Memorandum on signing and ratification of Air Service Agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Seychelles, the two countries have formerly ratified the Agreement.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika using the platform of the ongoing International Civil Aviation Negotiation (ICAN) event holding in Abuja, led officials of the Ministry to sign Bilateral Air Services Agreement ( BASA) while the Republic of Seychelles Minister of Transport, Mr. Anthony Derjacques, signed on behalf of his country.

Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika signing the BASA with Seychelles

During the ceremony, the two Ministers underscored the importance of the BASA as it will promote air services and connectivity between both countries, enhance business, and promote tourism.

Seychelles Minister of Transport, Mr. Anthony Derjacques endorsing the BASA with Nigeria

According to a statement by the Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation on Public Affairs, James Odaudu, the two Ministers agreed that the signing would further promote the African Union Agenda 2063 and called on citizens of both countries to latch on the opportunities of the BASA for their mutual benefits.

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Aviation has either signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and initial Air Services Agreement (ASA) with Senegal, Benin Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Finland, Cameroon, Morocco, Suriname, India, Sudan and Uganda.

The Ministry has also had discussions on how to further implement the open skies Agreement, signed 30 years ago, with the United States of America.

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Buhari Assures International Civil Aviation Organisation Of More Support



President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has assured the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that Nigeria will continue to offer more support by making significant investments in the provision of aviation infrastructure for a safe, secure, environmentally friendly and sustainable economic development of the international civil aviation sector.

President Buhari made the commitment on Tuesday in Abuja when he received the ICAO President, Salvatore Sciacchitano.

Recalling the long history between Nigeria and ICAO, the President said:

“Nigeria has been a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) since 1962, and has continued to make valuable contributions to the ICAO Council’s work and its activities.

President Buhari with his Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika, ICAO Council President, Salvatore Siacchitano, Immediate past ICAO President, Bernard Aliu during the visit

“This country has been playing a key role in supporting the implementation of ICAO Policies and Programmes internationally, and particularly in the African region.

“To this end, Nigeria has ratified all international air law instruments like the Montreal Protocol and amendments to some articles of the Chicago Convention,”

He told his guest that Nigeria was championing the cause of Aviation safety, security and facilitation in Africa.

President Buhari said, “I have recently signed into law Civil Aviation Act 2022. This is to reposition the industry to ensure continuous compliance with ICAO standards and to meet the challenges of a dynamic and rapidly growing air transport sector,” while assuring the ICAO President that the “Aviation industry in Nigeria is increasing by leaps and bounds.”

“I have also approved the establishment of Aviation and Aerospace University in Abuja to cater for research and development in the sector as well as the managerial challenges. In this regard, Nigeria has already started receiving the support of ICAO members like Qatar under the No Country Left Behind Initiative,”

The President expressed confidence that the aviation sector in Nigeria would continue to grow, affirming that “the roadmap of the Ministry of Aviation superintendent by Senator Hadi Sirika, is on course and together with other reforms of this administration will be sustained.”

While congratulating Mr. Sciacchitano on his re-election as President of the ICAO Council for the second term, President Buhari also appreciated the support Nigeria had enjoyed under his leadership, which, according to him, culminated in Nigeria’s re-election during the 41st Session of the ICAO Assembly.

The Nigerian leader informed the ICAO President that the aviation sector under this administration has more than doubled, noting that “It became the fastest growing of our economy Pre-COVID, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).”

According to him, “Passenger numbers were raised from 8 – 30 million. The five new airport terminals have added 50 million passengers to our capacity. All these within the time we are in government, namely seven and half years.”

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in a brief remark, informed the President that the ICAO Air Services Negotiation (ICAN) event being hosted by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority “will provide States, either on-site or participating remotely, with a central meeting place to conduct bilateral, regional or plurilateral air services negotiations and consultations, as well as networking opportunities for policymakers, regulators, air operators, service providers and other stakeholders.”

He expressed delight at the post-COVID recovery of the country’s aviation sector, describing it as the second best in the world.

The ICAO President told President Buhari that the meeting offered an opportunity of interaction between the participants from about 160 countries and the Civil Aviation Authorities in the country, adding that more than 4,000 agreements are being signed by way of bilateral agreements.

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International Civil Aviation Day: Nigeria Remains Committed to ICAO’s Ideals – Sirika



As the global aviation community comes together to celebrate the 2022 International Civil Aviation Day, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has restated the nation’s commitment to the ideals of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

According to Sirika, the theme for International Civil Aviation Day 2022 which is, “Advancing Innovation for Global Aviation Development” aligns with the belief of the Nigerian government that Aviation is a channel to achieving the development of other sectors as it remains the fastest and safest mode of domestic and international movement.
This belief, he says, has informed Government’s commitment to the development of the sector for which it developed a roadmap at the inception of the Buhari administration.

A statement the Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation on Public Affairs, Dr James Odaudu quotes Sirika as saying that the implementation of the roadmap has led to a number of record-breaking achievements in the nation’s aviation industry which have been variously acknowledged and applauded by ICAO.

“Globally, it is a well known fact that aviation doubles every fifteen years but in the case of Nigeria, it has more than doubled and in another fifteen years, it will quadruple”.
“According to the National Bureau of Statistics , aviation became the fastest growing sector of the economy pre-covid and during covid, the third fastest growing sector and after covid, according to Airport Council International, ACI, we are at a 111% of pre-covid numbers. Apart from Colombia, we are the only country on earth that recovered so fast, and we have added even 11% of pre-covid numbers”.

These statistics, according to Senator Sirika, reinforce the continuous commitment of Nigeria to the ideals and aspirations of the International Civil Aviation Organization whose regulations have continued to guide the industry in ensuring the safety records that the country has established.

“The Minister, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, the government and people of Nigeria, congratulates the President of the ICAO Council, Salvatore Siacchitano and members of the global aviation community presently in the country for the ICAN22 event on the Day and hopes that Nigeria will continue to have the privilege of hosting more ICAO events in the future” the statement read.

The purpose of International Civil Aviation Day is to help generate and reinforce worldwide awareness of the importance of international civil aviation to the social and economic development of States, and of the unique role of ICAO in helping States to cooperate and realize a truly global rapid transit network at the service of all mankind.

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