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While window
shopping in the mall one day, I saw something unusual through the window of one
of the stalls. It was something I had always thought it would be cool to have,
if only I knew what to do with it. It was a drone. A DRONE? A DRONE in a toy
store??? I know you must think I’m old and archaic but really what is a drone
doing in a toy store.


The possibility
of drones being available for sale to the general public is one that makes me
fearful for a number of reasons. There is no doubt that the introduction of
this technology brings much potential for growth in many different areas. It
may contribute to making security surveillance systems cheaper and safer,
therefore improving our ability to safeguard infrastructure (such as oil
pipelines) and the general public from evil doers such as the killer herdsmen
and the dreaded boko haram sect. Other applications may include use by
hospitals to deliver emergency first aid equipment, speedy delivery of pizza to
my house, and even more awesome innovations from those in the music and
entertainment industries. However, the introduction of drones also poses
several risks in the wrong hands, especially in the context of the complex and
volatile nature of Nigeria these days.

Therefore my
major question is: how can the use of drones be regulated such that innovation
and progress is encouraged in a systematically controlled environment.

I was elated to
see that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has proactively taken
steps to provide safety guidelines for the operation of drones, particularly in
a non-segregated airspace, for certification, safety and security reasons. The
word proactive is used due to the fact that the International Civil Aviation
Organisation (ICAO) is yet to publish Standards and Recommended Practices
(SARPs), as far as certification and operation of civil use of Remotely Piloted
Aircraft (RPA) is concerned. [1]the NCCA has put in place very stringent procedures for
the acquisition of licences to operate a drone in Nigeria, which includes the
following:

1. Writing a letter to the Director General,
Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) stating your proposed use of your
(RPA),

2.  The payment of a non-refundable processing fee of
N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) bank draft payable to the Nigerian Civil
Aviation Authority.

3.    It is also expected that your business is
incorporated with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) with a minimum capital
shares of N20,000,000. [2]
4.   Due diligence by the Nigerian Security Agency (NSA)
and part in compliance with NCAA is carried out on the applicant.

And finally an
annual renewal of licence fee of NGN100, 000.00.[3]
As laudable as this
step may seem, it poses more as a deterrent to potential drone users due to the
high cost and unpredictable outcome of the application process. The application
process is geared mainly to those who are able to raise revenue, whether
legally or on the side (i.e., illegally). This is also evident from the little
detail of a non-refundable half a million-naira processing fees. (note that the
total certification process costs more than the average cost of a drone). The
certification process by the NCAA has therefore grounded the use of drones to a
near total halt.

Furthermore, the
Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs 2015 Part 8.8.1.33) and
Implementing Standards (Nig.CARs 2015 Part IS.8.8.1.33) stipulates the
guidelines for the use of drones in Nigeria which covers how, when and where to
use drones.[4] This is funny because the guidelines will now
guide no one, or at best very very very few privileged people and institutions
who know people in high places that can guarantee license approval (the story
of Nigeria).

In the spirit of
technological progress however, what is most important is the ability to strike
a balance between the good and the bad potentials of drone use. The complex
balance between the encouragement of use to increase economic and innovative
growth is crucial. For example, going beyond regulating the use of drones, it
would be nice to see the NCCA co-operating with the Nigerian Customs and
immigration services in order to control the importation or smuggling of drones
such that importation is not discouraged but controlled and properly tracked.

The
certification process should also be attached to the purchase and use of drones
whereby prospective buyers must show evidence of certification before being
able to import or buy drones off the rack of equally certified retailers, just
like buying a gun (considering the fact that drones are also potentially
weapons). Also the NCCA may encourage the building of drones (knowing how
innovative Nigerians can be) for the encouragement of technological
development, as well as having a less stringent and more cost effective
certification/licensing process to encourage legitimate users, importers and
builders to register activities. Finally, a wider spread law to enforcing and
punishing the violation of any and all guidelines and laws.[5]
As the world
continues to evolve, Nigeria should not continue to be seen as a country who
constantly lags behind technology-wise. 

A little progress has been seen in
recent years  throught the introduction of electronic commerce into the
Nigerian evidence act 2011. But it would be nice to see more progress in this
direction by creating and amending laws to be more accepting of technological
development. I do understand however that there is a need for complete synergy
between the law and enforcement agencies for this dream Nigeria to be realised.
Drones pose even higher dangers where so many dysfunctional agencies and laws
are in existence. While deterring the use of drones in the country may not be
the most technology oriented move to make, it is the safest for now pending
when we become a more mature and technology forward and functional nation.
Therefore, I’m more than happy to wait for the time to buy my own drone and fly
to see what I look like from an aerial view, than get stalked or worse by a
random unknown and dangerous person. I am happy to be patient.
[3]Anti-Drone Regulations: NCAA Will Send Nigeria To
The Stone Age; Samuel
Odusami
; viewed 27th September 2016
[5] Drones and their interaction with security and
privacy; sokombaa alolade

Abimbola A. Laoye-Balogun

Managing Partner 
H.B Balogun & Co.

Ed’s Note – This article was published here.

Photo Credit – www.pacificlegal.org