Nigeria attained category 1 status in 2009, with dedicated effort of a team led by Dr Harold Demuren, the former director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). It is clearly visible today that sustaining the status was as impossible as achieving it.

The reason for this skepticism is nothing short of the diminished role, responsibility and purview of the NCAA. It is highly unfortunate that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s regulatory oversight is being fragmented, diluted, and constantly disrupted by those who cannot support the current leadership of our regulatory agency. These negative interferences would have surely told on how the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) agency scored the NCAA in the audit. But we must thank God that the current crop of leadership of the NCAA is as determined as ever to keep the rigorous safety oversight of our air transportation system intact. The Director General and his team deserve the biggest applause.

A few days ago, the result of the intensive audit of our Civil Aviation Authority was released with flying colours. This is another milestone in the standards the NCAA has sustained since the first audit in 2009. All Nigerians must be proud of this achievement, and those who are unhappy, because they had written off the efforts of the professionals in the regulatory agency, too bad.

For those who do not understand what category 1 status is about, the definition and explanation below should clarify Nigeria’s repeated, excellent performance:

The International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme involves assessing whether another country’s oversight of its air carriers that operate, or seek to operate, into the United States complies with minimum international standards for aviation safety. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is making these changes as it commences a new phase of the IASA programme following the completion of initial determinations on the safety oversight exercised by virtually all countries whose air carriers operate, or have applied to operate, to the United States. This notice modifies the IASA policies previously announced by the FAA.

Background

The policy announced at 57 FR 38342, August 24, 1992, described how the FAA would assess whether a foreign civil aviation authority (CAA) complied with the minimum international standards for aviation safety oversight established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In obtaining information relevant to its assessment, the FAA meets with the foreign CAA responsible for providing the safety oversight to its carriers, reviews pertinent records and meets with officials of the subject foreign air carriers.

The FAA then analyzes the collected information to determine whether the CAA complies with ICAO standards regarding the oversight provided to the air carriers under its authority. This determination is part of the basis for FAA recommended courses of action to the Department of Transportation on the initiation, continuation, or expansion of air service to the United States by the carriers overseen by that CAA. The IASA programme applies to all foreign countries with air carriers proposing, or with existing air service to the United States under an economic authority issued by the Department.

Sources of Information on Safety Oversight

The FAA has a continuing obligation to ensure that CAAs comply with minimum international standards for safety oversight. In collecting information to support its assessment findings, the FAA will continue to rely, when necessary, on meetings with CAA and airline officials and reviewing pertinent documents. The FAA also will make use of other sources of information on CAA compliance with minimum international standards for safety oversight. These sources may include other qualified entities (e.g the European Joint Aviation Authorities or ICAO) considered reliable by the FAA.

Categorization of Results of FAA AssessmentsAs in the past, assessment determinations will continue to be publicly disclosed. However, FAA will only use two categories, i.e., Category 1 (in compliance with minimum international standards for aviation safety), and Category 2 (not in compliance with minimum international standards for aviation safety).

This change is being made to eliminate any confusion that has resulted from having two different categories regarding non-compliance with ICAO standards.Category 2. The Federal Aviation Administration assessed this country’s civil aviation authority and determined that it does not provide safety oversight of its air carrier operators in accordance with the minimum safety oversight standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

This rating is applied if one or more of the following deficiencies are identified:(1) The country lacks laws or regulations necessary to support the certification and oversight of air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards;

(2) The CAA lacks the technical expertise, resource;

(3) The CAA does not have adequately trained and qualified technical personnel;

(4) The CAA does not provide adequate inspector guidance to ensure enforcement of, and compliance with, minimum international standards, and

(5) The CAA has insufficient documentation and records of certification and inadequate continuing oversight and surveillance of air carrier operations. This category consists of two groups of countries.

The FAA will review the category determinations of all countries included in the IASA categorization scheme at least once every two years, or when new information becomes available which calls into question the country’s ability to continue complying with minimum standards for aviation safety.

It would have been shameful if we were downgraded to category 2, but, again, we thank the men and women of the NCAA for the excellent performance.