Photo credit: kanostate.gov.ng
The report in Daily Trust on Sunday last week that one hundred promising young men and women that were sent abroad by the Kano State Government to undergo training as commercial pilots ended up as civil servants and classroom teachers calls for sober reflection on the part of the state government and all Nigerians. The state government, then under the administration of former governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, had in March 2013 awarded N1.1billion ($6.7 million) special scholarship to 100 young graduates from the state for an 18- month professional pilot training course at the Mid-East Aviation Academy, Amman, Jordan.
Eighty five of the young lads completed the course and 82 of them returned to the country. The next step was to send them to the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria for a professional certificate course in flying. Instead, they were deployed to Kano State Secondary Schools Management Board and Kano State Civil Service Commission, from where they were posted to schools and ministries. The training in Zaria would have cost KNSG an additional N500 million, which the present government under Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje may not have, given the sharp economic downturn in the country. In order not to lose its investment entirely, the government converted them into teachers and civil servants.
At the time Kano State Government under Kwankwaso was sending large numbers of students to undergo studies in various disciplines in foreign countries, it earned a lot of kudos all around from Nigerians who thought it was a wise investment for the future. Nevertheless, we expected that serious thought went into the choice of courses and schools, including careful evaluation of the future market situation for every field of study. Apart from Kano, several other Northern state governments have also sent students abroad to study various courses. Most of the time these are courses of obvious need for the states and the country such as medicine, pharmacy, engineering, agriculture and the like. An aviation course may look exotic and prestigious but it is also costly and lasts many years. Before 100 young lads were sent to study it, there should have been a careful evaluation of the manpower situation of the country’s aviation sector.
Right now, there are 7,103 pilots registered with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Out of these, only 2,093 have current license while 93 have applied to revalidate theirs. Even a cursory study of this situation would have warned KNSG to desist from sending such a large number of students to Jordan to study how to fly.
Even though Kano State’s Commissioner for Information Muhammad Garba said the government had an agreement with Azman Air where the pilots would be trained and then recruited by the company, the future of most of them as pilots hangs in the balance since Azman Air cannot employ all of them. From all indications the program was poorly thought out and the young trainees are now left holding the hat.
Still, the way to go is not to try to turn them into what they are not, i.e. teachers and civil servants. Even though the purses of all state governments are lean these days, a little more investment by KNSG to complete the training of some, if not all of them is the better way to go. If the training they undergo is of the right quality, they will find their way not only in Nigeria’s depressed aviation sector but elsewhere in Africa and the world as a whole. They could also be made to sign bonds to repay part or all of the funds expended on their training, as is the practice with student loans in developed countries.
Beyond that, KNSG and all other state governments as well as the Federal Government must learn lessons from this episode. We should not go about scoring cheap political points by sending large numbers of students abroad to study exotic courses without proper studies of financial implications as well as future career prospects.