Mr Isaac Balami, President, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), says the association has concluded arrangement to build a N2.5 billion permanent Secretariat at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Balami, in an interview with the Nigerian Pilot on Friday in Abuja, said that NAAPE had signed a contract for the execution of the project.
He said the desire of the association to construct a secretariat was borne out of the need to give its members the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the development of the Nigerian aviation industry.
Balami added that having its permanent secretariat would help the association to implement its plans and programmes that would further enhance the welfare of its members.
According to him, the association y has acquired about seven acres of land from the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at MMIA with approval from the Minister of State for Aviation.
“To have such a prestigious association without having a permanent secretariat is a major challenge and we have just signed a deal of about N2.5 billion which is starting in the next few days.
“We cannot achieve our set goals of developing the Nigerian aviation of our dream because we play major role in every area of the sector.
“This project will also help us to develop the capacity of our members who are coming up in the industry to be able to compete with expatriates.
“We have gotten a land approved by the Minister of State for Aviation at the Lagos airport which is about seven acres of land in a good location and we have paid FAAN for the land,’’ he said.
Balami, who had been leading NAAPE for eight years, stated that the association had achieved some milestones in enhancing professionalism of its members and their welfare.
He added that the disparity between expatriates and Nigerian pilots and engineers had been eliminated through concerted efforts by the association.
The NAAPE president said before now, maintenance of aircraft was being done almost 100 per cent by expatriates, as Nigerians were only there to observe.
“Today as I speak to you, I would say, 99 per cent of those jobs are done by Nigerians.
“As such, there is no incidence or any plane crash or any challenge in the country that is tied to lack of competence from Nigerian personnel.
“We have also been able to ensure that there is no discrimination between expatriates and Nigerian personnel which shows that the association has come to stay to protect the interest of its members.
“We have been able to fight and ensure that if a Nigerian is doing what the white man is doing, then he should be paid what the white man is being paid,’’ he added.
The NAAPE president, however, called on the Federal Government to consider the call to ensure that all airlines operating in the country should engage at least one Nigerian pilot.
He also said that plans are ongoing by the association to establish its own carrier if the proposed national carrier failed to materialise, adding that Nigerian pilots and engineers were determined to help themselves.
According to him, NAAPE is presently at the developmental stage of the plan and has sent strong message to airline operators.
“The association is also trying to see how it can also take care of members, and there is no need for us to even think of floating an airline if things are being done properly.
“If the government succeeds in setting up the national carrier, we will see how we can partner with them and if they keep procrastinating, we will go ahead with our plan,’’ he said.