We’ve grounded aircraft that are not airworthy– DG NCAA

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*Nuhu

The director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, in this interview speaks on the health of the domestic airlines and aircraft, the agency’s post COVID-19 oversight of the aviation industry, etc.

Ime Akpan

Health of domestic carriers

I can categorically say that our airplanes are safe. The airplanes that are not safe have been grounded. Some aircraft have been grounded in Nigeria for months because they are not safe and we have insisted that the operators must fix whatever issue they have before they are authorised to fly.

The standard as regard airworthiness of airplanes, even I as the director general (of NCAA) I do not have the authority to waive anything as long as it is a safety related issue. All our aircraft flying are safe.

I believe this statement came supposedly from the national assembly and I want to believe there was a misquotation. I will leave it like that.  Somehow, the story was twisted by whoever for whatever to make a sensational story.

What this has done is that it has cast doubt in Nigeria civil aviation with international community and what that will end up doing is that it will make it more difficult for our airlines to assess international funds, to have good lease rate for their aircraft, their insurance premium may go up. Of course, the twisting of the comment has created an impression that Nigeria civil aviation is not safe and I don’t think you want to put your aircraft or money where the system is not safe. It is unfortunate and that is not the state we are in. I can categorically state that all aircraft we are flying in Nigeria are safe and safe to fly. You can quote me on that.

Gaps in the system and efforts made to close them

Well, unfortunately, we ran into COVID-19 when I came onboard. My first meeting when was on COVID-19 issue, but thank God, we are coming out of it and flights are resuming. What we have done some reorganization internally, we have move people around, we have moved people. We put square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes. That is the first thing we did and we had comprehensive training of technical personnel. We are training our people to make sure they are current; they are up to date so that they can have more skills and ability to do their jobs. We have insisted on all operators, that is, airlines, ground handlers and co. we said they must comply with our regulations. This has led to the grounding of some aircraft because for some reasons, they were not in compliance and we insisted everybody must comply with the regulations.

One of the regulations is the aircraft airworthiness; the crew must be properly trained, proficient to do their jobs. Everybody must meet the requirements of the regulators.

Post COVID-19 oversight

In fact, for the airports, after the closing down, it is not only the airlines that we oversight; we oversight the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and other government agencies. Some people think FAAN is the regulator, but that is not. FAAN is a public service provider and we regulate them.

When we closed the airports, we make sure they are not reopened until FAAN meets certain requirements. I must commend the managing director of FAAN and his team for doing an excellent job. All the protocols are still there and there are certain things that the public may not necessarily see, especially at the airside. Like what we call the Fire Fighting and Rescue Services, we make sure FAAN does what it is supposed to do in this. Where the trucks were not good enough, we make sure they put them up to date, train their people and others. Honestly, I must commend FAAN and they did this at a very difficult time when their resources were really down.

That was why we didn’t open all the airports at the same time. If you remember, when we saw that Lagos was good, we opened it, Kano is okay, we opened it and others. FAAN has about 26 airports to manage and it will be difficult for any organisation to open all of them at the same time. We categorise airports based on their traffic and importance.

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