Allow me to paraphrase Ayo Sogunro: everything in Nigeria is designed to kill you. And it’s what doesn’t kill you that makes you, well, Nigerian. Let’s get one thing straight. The NCAA hasn’t exactly banned the use of drones in Nigeria, it just wants to regulate it.
Here’s an excerpt from the original statement from the NCAA:
“[No] government agency, organisation or an individual will launch an RPA/UAV in the Nigerian airspace for any purpose whatsoever without obtaining the requisite permit from the NCAA and ONSA. The NCAA wishes to reiterate that all applicants and holders of permits to operate RPA/Drones must strictly be guided by safety guidelines. In addition, operators must ensure strict compliance with the conditions stipulated in their permits and the requirements of the Nig. CARs” (Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations).
On its own, regulating the use of drones in a country isn’t a bad idea. But considering the hurdles one has to jump over before getting authorization, it’s easy to see how problematic the situation is. To help us understand the gravity of the ‘authorization process’, let us have a look at a LinkedIn post written by Ndubisi Arinze Eze, a consular attache with more than 21 years experience in the aerospace industry.
In this post titled ‘Managing NCAA Airworthiness and Certification For Your Commercial Drone Business’, Mr. Eze describes the normal process that you would go through to get a Permit for Aerial Aviation Services (PAAS).
Here are the most relevant parts of the post:
“For a successful PAAS issuance, we suggest visiting the NCAA office in Lagos or Abuja and ask for a copy of the 'Guidelines and Requirements For Grant Of Permit For Aerial Aviation Services (PAAS)'. This guideline should come with a set of application forms. Your application requires you to draft a cover letter to the Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) stating your proposed use of your Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), the type and model configuration and frequency of use within the Nigerian Airspace.
It is also expected that your business is incorporated with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) with minimum capital shares of N20,000,000. That is twenty million Naira in shares [See Pg 2. Sec.2(ii), b(iii)].
For the purpose of the appropriate due diligence by the Nigerian Security Agency (NSA) and part in compliance with NCAA NigCAR Part 17 - Aviation Security Regulations, you are required to fill out the Personal History Statement (PHS) at the headquarters of the SSS in Abuja. The NCAA requires a non-refundable processing fee of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) bank draft payable to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. All this must be done six months prior to your targeted date of use/ operation of your ‘commercial’ drones. Finally, your PAAS will be issued by the Air Transport Licensing Committee (ATLC) once your Security Clearance is made by the NSA. The PAAS issued is valid for three years with an annual utilisation fee of N100,000.”
If you were too lazy to read that [shame on you], here are the highlights:
- To get a PAAS, your business must be incorporated with the CAC and have at least ₦20 million in shares.
- You must fill out a personal history statement at the SSS HQ in Abuja, and then pay a non-refundable fee of ₦500,000 bank draft to the NCAA.
- Next, you must wait for six months for your permit to be issued by the Air Transport Licensing Committee (ATLC) once the NSA gives you Security Clearance.
So now, we don’t even know which is more difficult: for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, or to get a PAAS from the NCAA.
All of this points me back to Feyi Fawehinmi’s post where he said, “The default culture is to stifle innovation and kill experimentation.” He also said that “The only way this licence can be useful to the bureaucrats is for them to make it as hard and as unpredictable to obtain as possible. If they just set the rules for you to apply, that will defeat the purpose because anyone who qualifies will then get it.”
And we know Nigeria, if you haven’t prayed, fasted and hustled to get something, you haven’t lived life yet.