Nigerian Heads ICAO

Olumuyiwa Aliu, an aviation expert, makes history in Montreal, Canada, when he emerged as the first blackman to be elected president of the International Civil Aviation Organisation

By Olu Ojewale  |  Dec. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

HIS name may not be as recognisable as that of some Nigerian politicians, but in the international aviation industry, Olumuyiwa Babtunde Aliu is a giant that no one can overlook. On Monday, November 18, Aliu made history by becoming the first black man to be elected president of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO. The ICAO is the organ of the United Nations, UN, which oversees and enforces global civil aviation safety policies, issues and standards worldwide. For several years, Aliu, an aviation expert, has been Nigeria’s representative on the ICAO’s governing council.

According to a statement from the ICAO, Aliu was elected president of the association by acclamation, with the unanimous vote of the 36 members who constitute the governing council of the organisation at their meeting held in Montreal, Canada, on Monday, November 18. By his election, Aliu will head the ICAO for a three-year term, starting from 2014 to 2016.

Aliu is only the fifth president of ICAO council in its almost 70-year history of the specialised UN aviation agency, which is responsible for the convention on international civil aviation, under the Chicago convention, and more than 10,000 international civil aviation standards which the organisation has adopted.

Stella Oduah, minister of aviation, who had led the Nigerian delegation to drum support for Aliu, in her reaction, said Aliu’s election as ICAO president was another confirmation that the country’s aviation industry had made tremendous progress in the last few years under the transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. Oduah said Aliu would not have been elected if the international community did not acknowledge and respect what Nigeria had been doing to help advance the country’s aviation industry.

The new ICAO boss, who will begin his tenure as the leader of the international body in January, next year, expressed his gratitude to members of the ICAO governing council for “their support and recognition.” In his post election speech, Aliu said: “Aviation today faces many challenges but its role in expanding tourism and market access has never been more important as it is today to modern society and to the local, regional and global economic players who rely so significantly, on safe and dependable air transport connectivity.”

Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, a Mexican and the outgoing ICAO president, hailed the council for electing the Nigerian. “Having known and worked beside Dr Aliu for much of this period, I am very pleased that the leadership of the council will now be in such capable hands. Dr Aliu’s broad diplomatic perspective and demonstrated skills at consensus building will be essential to the success of ICAO’s continuing mission,” Gonzalez said.

Before his election as the ICAO president, Aliu had served as the Nigerian representative on the organisation’s governing council for eight years from 2005 to date. Aliu, who holds a doctorate in Aeronautics of the University of Kiev, Russia (1987), had been the director of Air Transport Regulation Directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, from 2000 to 2004. He had held various key positions in the country’s aviation industry, including that of technical assistant/adviser to the minister of aviation in 1999.

Aliu was the chairman for the formulation of African Civil Aviation Policy under the auspices of the African Union, AU, between 2009 and 2011. His outstanding competence and passion for aviation safety issues in Nigeria, Africa and the world have endeared Aliu to several people and organisations in the world aviation industry and enabled him to spearhead advocacy and enforcement of the latest safety standards in aviation in Nigeria.

Aliu began his career in the Federal Ministry of Aviation in 1988 as a senior airworthiness surveyor. In 1991, he became head of the commercial section of the Federal Civil Aviation Authority, now NCAA, and two years later, he was named chief air transport officer of the aviation agency. In 1994, Aliu became the agency’s head of air transport operations, a position which functions include managing air transport licensing and negotiation of bilateral and multilateral air services agreements. He was on that post until he was appointed the chief airworthiness surveyor for the federal ministry of aviation in 1996.

In 1999, he was made technical assistant and adviser to the then minister of aviation. The following year, however, Aliu returned to the field when he was appointed director of the newly created Directorate of Air Transport Regulation, a position he maintained until 2004. Within this period, Aliu began to play an active role in aviation safety policy formulation in the country and also maintained an increasingly active role in the ICAO affairs.

During his time as technical assistant/adviser to the then aviation minister in 1999, Aliu assisted in the review of the National Civil Aviation Policy and the restructuring of the industry and its regulatory agencies which led to the creation of four autonomous aviation regulatory agencies in 2000. These are the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA; the Federal Airports Authority, FAAN; The Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB; and the National Aerospace Management Authority, NAMA. That restructuring has helped to give focus to the Nigerian aviation industry and promote professionalism within the regulatory agencies.

His involvement with the ICAO which dates back to more than two decades, has seen him being appointed chairman of the organisation’s technical operations committee in 2005 until 2009; member of governing board of the International Financial Facility for Aviation Safety in 2005; chairman of the Steering Committee of the ICAO Comprehensive Implementation Plan for Aviation Safety in Africa, AFI Plan, in 2008 to 2013. He was also chairman of ICAO’s finance committee in 2008. In 2009, Aliu was first vice-president of the ICAO governing council and later its dean in January of 2012.

The new ICAO president, who earned a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical engineering also from the Kiev University, Ukraine, also holds a professional aircraft maintenance engineer’s licence. He has a graduate certificate in Air and Space Law from the McGill University, Canada, in 2009. Aliu is married has children.

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