Nigerian Airlines Risk US Ban Over Poor Local Airports

(Sundiata Post) – Nigerian airlines will be barred from flying to the United States of America within the next 54 days, if the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) fail to resolve specified security issues.

BusinessDay checks show that during the just concluded US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) audit for the renewal of Nigeria’s Category 1 safety status, Nigerian airports failed to meet the safety and security requirements of that organisation.

The US FAA periodically conducts checks on foreign airports with which it has bilateral agreements, to ensure that they meet set standards.

The checks include providing effective and efficient aviation legislation and regulations, having operational state civil aviation systems and safety oversight functions; and having technical personnel qualification and training.

Other requirements include provision of technical guidance, tools and the provision of safety-critical information; licensing, certification, authorisation and approval obligations; carrying out effective surveillance obligations and resolving safety concerns.

As a result of the failure to meet the set standard, the FAA team gave Nigeria 65 days from 24th of August 2017 to close the gaps at the airports, regarding infrastructural deficiencies, especially in the area of safety and security.

John Ojikutu, a member of aviation industry think tank group, Aviation Round Table (ART) and Chief Executive of Centurion Securities, told BusinessDay that he doubts if Nigeria can attain the Category 1 safety status without having its major airports certified.

According to Ojikutu, airport certification is a requirement and compliant to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (NCAR) Part 12.6.4, which carries obligations on the operator to continuously maintain standards and competence in operation and ensuring availability of skilled manpower in sufficient numbers, for the periodic maintenance of the facilities and the system.

“Many stakeholders would probably be asking; what is the necessity for the certification when the industry was already classified Category 1? What many do not know, however, is that the classification of Nigeria as Category 1, was meant only for the NCAA Regulations and oversight competence, the way a University Academic Programs are rated or accredited by the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC).

“Unfortunately, the NCAA is like a university that has been long accredited but has not been able to graduate a student. The NCAA, in spite of its Category One status classification in 2010 and even today in 2017 after its reclassification, has not been able to give certification to a single airport among the over 28 federal and state airports in the country.

“With the deplorable state of the infrastructure at most of the airports for over seven years after the first classification as Cat.1, there would be no justifiable certification for any Nigerian airport by the NCAA, if the facilities remain deficient, obsolete and many, without periodic maintenance programme and insurance to cover their operations and the users,” he explained.

He reiterated that the consequences of these inadequacies in many airports are the reasons for the current certification process, so as to give confidence to airport users, particularly the foreign and domestic airlines and other aircraft and aviation operators.

Another industry expert, who craved anonymity, told BusinessDay that one evidence of noncompliance with periodic maintenance standards was the horrible state of disrepair of the Abuja airport runway, as at April this year, (2017)necessitating its closure for repairs. He said the airport runway ought to have been put right long before it got to that state, if proper procedures were followed.

“The situation at Abuja gave cause to examine the state of the runways and other facilities at the other airports and their maintenance programmes,” the source said.

Ojikutu also mentioned that stakeholders would need to critically examine the operators insurance obligations and liabilities, as stated in the revised version of the NCAR 2015. For instance, while Part 18 of the 2012 version gave the minimum or the specific cost for both airports and aircraft insurance, the 2015 version though, still gave the minimum cost for airline aircraft insurance premium, it was however silent on the cost of insurance for other aviation operators.

“Whatever informed the decision of the NCAA to have this type of provision that is skewed, mainly for the benefit of government operators or safety services providers, would need to be revisited, so as to be fair to all the operators,” he added.

Igwe Francis, the Public Relations Officer, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) said it is of grave concern that the aviation agencies are clearly unable to attract, hire or retain qualified and experienced pilots and engineers, due to the poor remuneration and conditions of service for the aviation professionals, whereas, “availability of adequate qualified technical personnel is Critical Element 4 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Eight Critical Elements of a State’s Safety Oversight System”.

Chris Aligbe, an industry consultant and the CEO of BelujaneKonsult, said the only solution to airport infrastructural deficiencies is concession, adding that transparent concession of these airports would permanently solve the problem of obsolete and porous airports.

“The solution of poor airport facilities is concession, but there should be efforts to ensure that every staff of FAAN is carried along. The unions are major stakeholders. The concession programme should be put in the open, so that the country will get the best of it.”

Henrietta Yakubu, General Manager, Corporate Affrairs, FAAN, however told BusinessDay that FAAN is working with the NCAA to ensure the identified gaps are closed, adding that Lagos and Abuja airports are ready for certification. (BusinessDay)

 

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