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Business News of Tuesday, 7 November 2023


Why Nigeria recorded 70% in ICAO safety Audit – Investigation

Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos

More facts have emerged on why the Nigerian aviation industry failed to scale the hurdle at the just concluded Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), scoring 70% of the 75% benchmark.

Nairametrics gathered over the weekend that the lack of Instrument Landing Systems (ILSs) at most of the airports and the downgrading of the lighting systems from Category (CAT) 2 or 3 to CAT 1 by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) due to the absence of the runway lightings were responsible for the scores.

The airports were downgraded following their failure to meet the required standards, it was learnt, it was learnt.

Downgrade before audit

A source close to the NCAA confided in our correspondent over the weekend that before the country embarked on the ICAO safety audit, the apex regulatory body, downgraded the ILS or the lighting of most of the airports from either CAT 2 or 3 to just CAT 1.

While the ILSs are under the purview of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is responsible for installing the runway lights at all federally-owned airports.

It was learnt that before the just concluded audit, NCAA had to downgrade the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja to a single approach, while the Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Omagwa, to Visual Flight Rules (VFR) because the airports failed to meet the minimum requirements for flying.

The downgrading of Port Harcourt Airport to VFR only indicates that the aerodrome despite being an international airport can only operate 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. service (sunrise).

Absence as albatross

Confirming the development, Capt. Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), said that the absence of some of these equipment affected the scores of the country in the just concluded audit.

He also confirmed that all the airports in the country were struggling to meet the CAT 1 requirements despite the downgrade from CAT 2 or 3.

He said: “Based on the experience that we had at the just concluded ICAO Safety audit, it shows clearly why we had issues – aerials and aerodromes and to be honest, we kept talking about CAT 2 ILS in Nigeria.

“All the airports in Nigeria are struggling to meet the CAT 1 requirements. That is the truth of the matter. Before the audit, we had to downgrade Kano Airport to a single approach, and Abuja to a single approach. We downgraded Port Harcourt, an international airport to only VFR flights because they do not meet the minimum requirements. I think this is a problem of continuing to work together as a team.”

ICAO safety audit

ICAO carried out a safety audit in Nigeria between August 30 to September 10, 2023

The NCAA had scored 70 per cent in Effective Implementation (EI), and 90% in Legislation, a reduction from the 95% it scored in the last audit, while it scored 83 per cent in Organisation compared to its 100% score last time around.

In Personnel Licencing, the CAA scored 84%, while it scored 62% in Operations, compared to its last score of 57 per cent.

The Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) scored 89.25% in the ICAO audit.

In the area of aerodrome, which is under FAAN, the country scored 56%, while Nigeria scored 44% in ground aids. Ground aids are under NAMA.

The audit focuses on a State’s capability to provide safety oversight by assessing whether the state has implemented the Critical Elements (CEs) of a safety oversight system effectively and consistently.

According to ICAO, this enables the State to ensure the implementation of ICAO’s safety-related Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and associated procedures and guidance material and provides ICAO with a means to continuously monitor the States’ fulfilment of their safety oversight obligations.

No Nation Fails ICAO Audit

But, Nuhu clarified that no country fails or passes the ICAO audits.

Rather, he said that ICAO issued countries some months to close all the open items noticed during the exercise.

Nuhu stated that Nigeria did not have any security concerns during the audit, but said the score was below global average.

He said: “In ICAO, there is no pass or fail. There is a target, if you don’t get the target, ICAO will send you a report with the protocol questions. And you use that, they give you three months to develop an action plan and close some of those gaps and send it back to them. There are a couple of areas we didn’t do very well in Nigeria and one of the areas is the certification of airports.”