Yadudu’s strides at FAAN in two years

Managing organisations in the post-COVID-19 pandemic calls for ingenuity, especially for government agencies in Nigeria and around the world. But for the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Rabiu Yadudu (rtd), system, processes and human resources he put in place helped to contain what would have been the biggest casualty globally.

At the risk of being immodest, Yadudu’s works make the contributions set by many of his predecessors to pale into insignificance in the aviation history in Nigeria. This is an appropriate response to his traducers who at the time of his appointment in 2019 railed at and rallied against him, describing him as a rookie whose two years as a director makes him unsuitable to hold that sensitive post.

There were other voices raised against him because of his close working relationship with the minister of aviation. Instead of seeing this cordiality as an advantage that was borne out of mutual understanding and cooperation, it was used as a trump card against him. This is the bane of many ministries, departments and agencies in Nigeria and has contributed to the failure of many of public sector organisations in meeting their mandates. Imagine what colossal loss it would be if petty rivalries and bickering of naysayers had prevailed against the better judgment of Mr President.

Rather than trade words against the gang up, he quietly started a journey of transformation at FAAN. He became the guardian of the gateway into Nigeria and his management has been magnificent. He has shown that he has the guts to bring in glory and he has demonstrated beyond the widest imagination of those who believe that he cannot succeed that there is more to organising FAAN than the decades spent in the seat as a director of an organisation. There has been eerie silence from the camp of his critics who were waiting in the wings for his first sign of weakness.

The skills deployed by Yadudu at FAAN make for a persuasive argument to ask that his remarkable two years in office should serve as a background for giving him an opportunity to further carry on with his blueprint for FAAN. Although there are a few points waiting to be collected, those who were unimpressed by his appointment at the beginning but have seen his worth on the tarmac, in the departure and arrival halls are willing even if grudgingly for Yadudu to hoist a banner of meritorious service.

Captain Yadudu’s style of operation is unique and distinct from his predecessors in terms of thinking outside the box and that has been his hallmark as the Authority gradually breaks tradition with what has been the way of operation in years past. The man has seen virtually all and works in all departments that makes for a successful airport system that meet internationally acceptable standard in the twenty first century. His beacon from his appointment in May 2019 was the Authority’s mission statement. In keeping faith with the obligation of FAAN “to develop and profitably manage customer-centric airport facilities for safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world-class standards of quality,” the man could never go wrong. The mission statement became his operational manual, and the reward has been immense for him, the staff, board, the Authority, to President Buhari who appointed him and to the passengers who have used the airports in the past two years.

Expectedly, because he has not wavered or take a flight of fancy but shown uncommon dedication and commitment to the demands of FAAN and the users of the airport, the innumerable distractions that are some of the pitfalls of the work including incoherent air transport policy, bad management, decaying facilities, loose security, closure of airports, intermittent air crashes have not deterred him from ensuring that there must be strict compliance with safety which is the bedrock of the aviation industry. He is an unrepentant enthusiast for the strict application of regulations for the sustenance of the aviation industry, combining efficiency and effectiveness in operations without compromising the comfort of the passengers around whom everything revolves.

It is apparent that Yadudu’s experience in the aviation industry has served him creditably. His glittering career is lined with garlands of success. He is amazingly comfortable in Aircraft Operations just as he is at ease in meeting the specifics of airport personnel and facilities management. He not only emerged through the system, but he is also a poster boy of the system who learnt all the rudiments of the aviation industry. He rose from the post of the Director of Airport Operations (DAO), of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) into the helm of authority in the Authority. As an International Civil Aviation Organisation/Airport Council International (ICAO/ACI) accredited airport professional, he came into the exalted office highly prepared, recommended and duly motivated for service.

Expectedly, because of his desire to boost morale of the workforce and build on existing facilities, he pitched on strategic areas as anchor for his tenure especially in human capacity development, development and utilization, infrastructure upgrade and maintenance and improvement in processes &procedures. The areas so identified were designed to bring about a holistic revamp of the airport authority under his watch. Prior to his ascension to the office of the Managing Director, Captain Yadudu had devoted himself to understanding what is necessary to propel FAAN to a level that it begins to work with precision. He had prepared extensively and made the complex procedures as simple as possible through the identification of bottle necks that had impeded effective service delivery. The outcomes were tremendous reforms in safety, security, which have boosted the confidence, capability, and competence of the tens of thousands strong workforce of men and women.

He upgraded the FAAN Training School at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos to meet internationally acceptable standard; a certification was awareded that has made the school one of the ICAO accredited Aviation Security Training Centre. It was inaugurated by the international aviation body in 2019 bringing another feather to the somewhat overcrowded cap of Captain Yadudu. In recognition of its contribution to aviation sector for the sub-region, ICAO has designated it to cater for aviation institutions in West and Central Africa.

Beyond the AVSEC training school, the deepening and strengthening of knowledge under Captain Yadudu extended to issues of continuous training and capacity building for staff of the Authority in the most crucial areas especially fire and rescue, operations, safety and engineering departments, and airport security in these days of high prevalence of terrorism and drug trafficking. He ensured that whatever it will require to make FAAN’s operations to be seamless, and without hassles as could be found in more developed countries of the world. Captain Yadudu adopted the train-the-trainer pattern through which the Authority will train a class of fifty who would in turn step down the training for relevant staff and knowledge is replicated and cascaded through the ranks. In this way, Captain Yadudu built a sustainability structure that will keep producing new crops of knowledgeable aviation staff.

As the chief cheer leader at FAAN, Yadudu knows that it is also one of his cardinal duties to make the passengers want to use the facilities. Their safety, comfort and security were ramped up through the reactivation of the cooling system which had made the arrival hall of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport an extremely uncomfortable arrival point for passengers who would suddenly feel the sharp contrast in temperature as they step out of the controlled climate of the cool interior of an arriving aircraft. There were other significant changes at the airport including but not limited to the airfield lighting at the Lagos aerodrome which has received an upgrade.

Creating a hub status for the Lagos airport is a priority that Captain Yadudu has being pursuing passionately since his tenure started. The vision is for the new terminal to process 12 million passengers yearly while the 48,000 square meter facility beside the old terminal will process between 20 and 30 million passengers yearly. This dream is nearing fruition as the intermodal pattern required to serve the airport is being worked out with other agencies even including the Lagos state government.
There are other significant achievements that are difficult to be overlooked by any regular user of the Lagos airports. One of them is the menacing presence of a large colony of birds that have found the airport as habitable location. That is no mean feat because bird strike was almost synonymous with the Lagos airports and it was of serious concern to airline operators. Deploying a scientific management approach, the birds were eventually dislodged and the key flight path for all the aircraft have become a very safe runway.

The plans of Captain Yadudu for the airport also includes the latest in technology, without which the airport will not only stress passengers, but lose operations time and most importantly money and profitability. The anticipated technology to be deployed are the critical ones especially those needed for the check-in counters, and fiber optic technology to speed up communication. Captain Yadudu’s ambition for FAAN is large size and with his determination, the Authority is poised for greater achievements ahead.

The competence of Captain Yadudu goes beyond aviation matters. His understanding of how to manage men, utilize materials and be prudent in finances is outstanding. Revenue generation has not only improved enormously but financial control systems are in the right places to guarantee that leakages are minimized if not totally eradicated in the running of airport operations. These feats have been recognized by the Airport Council International Aviation Service Quality which confirmed that what has transpired in FAAN between 2019 when the Authority signed on to the programme is a record of immense progress in general facilitation as recorded in the survey conducted by ACI ASQ.
For a man who has done so much in such a short span, a deserving and fitting applause should be given to him as we look forward to greater achievements in the years of meritorious service to the nation in the aviation sector. And the icing to his performance in the aviation sector was his upward mobility and transition from being a member of the continental Airports Council International Africa (ACI-Africa) to that of the global membership of the World Governing Council of the Airports Council International in two years.

Olu Ayela, Veteran Journalist, Based in Lagos