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Nigerian airlines may be banned by US over poor local airports

(BusinessDay) –  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 organization.

As a result of the failed audit test, Nigerian airlines may 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.

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, authorization 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.

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