Before the commencement of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) earlier in the month, experts had called on authorities in the aviation sector to close the identified gaps noticed in the sector. The gaps, a identified are shortage of technical staff such as Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) and Accident Investigators in key aviation agencies in the sector.
According to the experts, the agencies currently battling with shortage of technical staff are Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA); Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Others encumbrances are recent contamination of aviation fuel that led to the grounding of Max Air and queried the regulatory oversight of NCAA on fuel marketers.
Also, recent vandalisation of cables at the Lagos airport and the theft of aviation runway lightning of the Lagos airport. Also in January 2022, suspected thieves allegedly broke into an Arik Air aircraft parked at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, stealing valuable gadgets such as the flight management computer.
Runway robbers had also attempted to open the cargo compartment of the taxing Boeing 737-800 belonging to Arik Air. That was the second of such foiled attempts recorded by the local airline.
Also, recent downgrade of the Port Harcourt International airport fire category over non-functional fire service. Also in December 16, 2021, it was the case of an ignorant auto-technician test-running a faulty car on Runway 18L and heading for a collision with an oncoming Max Air jet.
The above mentioned issues were highlighted before the audit started but the inability to ensure corrective measures before the start of the audit put the industry at a disadvantage.
However, after the audit, LEADERSHIP gathered that Nigeria scored 70 per cent in the ICAO Universal Safety Audit Program Continuous Monitoring Approach (USOAP)- CMA, meaning Nigeria failed the audit.
The breakdown of the audit reports in Effective Implementation (EI) showed that Nigeria CAA in Legislation scored 90 per cent, a reduction from the 95 per cent it scored in the last audit while it scored 83 per cent in Organisation compared to its 100 per cent score in the last dispensation.
Under the Personnel Licencing the NCAA scored 84 per cent while it scored 62 per cent in operations compared to its last score of 57 per cent.
For Airworthiness the NCAA scored 94 per cent compared to its previous 90 per cent in the last audit while the audit for Accident Investigation got a resounding 89 per cent, five points up from its previous 84 per cent score.
In the area of Aerodrome and Ground Aids, the country scored 56 per cent while for Air Navigation Services it scored 44 per cent.
The audit report for the eight Critical Elements CE-1 Legislation, CE-2: Organisation, CE-3: Regulations, CE-4: Qualified Technical personnel; CE-5: Technical guidance material, CE-6: Approvals and certification, CE-7: Surveillance and CE-8: Resolution of safety concern was also available.
The NCAA maintained its last score of 89.66 per cent in the area of Legislation while it scored 89.87 per cent in Organisation, 78.33 per cent in Regulations and 60.98 per cent in Qualified Technical personnel.
In Technical guidance material, it scored 88.24 per cent and 49.7 per cent in Approvals and certification while in Surveillance and Resolution of safety concern it had 42.22 per cent and 56.76 per cent respectively.
Speaking on the result, the rector, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria Alkali, Modibbo, said the 70 per cent score was not a pass mark for the country by ICAO’s standard.
According to him, 75 per cent is the minimum and in aviation, any score below 75 per cent is a fail.
“The 70 per cent that we got is not a pass mark by ICAO and aviation standards. Since we started flying, 75 per cent is the minimum and in aviation, anything below 75 per cent is a fail. I was there at the briefing. Everybody took it in good faith; the ministry, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), NCAT, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and others, we took it in good faith.
“Audit is not a witch hunt, but to help you put things right. The director-general of NCAA and the permanent secretary were happy with what they even got because most of the problems we have are implementation of policies that we have on ground. Our policies are very good, but implementation of the policies is what we lack, but NCAA has woken up for the corrective action plans,” he said.
He continued further, “All I will tell Nigerians and every stakeholder is that it is good to have audits and if you have some open items, it will help you to close them and even do better. If you get things easily on a platter of gold, you will relax. The ICAO auditors will come back in another 18 months to come and see if we have closed the gaps noticed. In a nutshell, Nigeria is doing very well.”
On his part, the former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Capt John Ojikutu (retd.), said 70 per cent score is a pass mark, saying Nigeria must close the identified gaps within 90 days
“The score is the least pass. It’s like third class or ordinary pass in the university. In Aviation, it connotes a number of safety or security open gaps that must be closed within a definite period and the auditors would need to return to verify that the gaps have been closed. With 70 per cent, the period for closing the gaps can be as much as 90 days or more, whereas, it could be as little as 30/15 days for scores as much as 80 and above” Ojikutu stated.
He, however, expressed optimism that the government will close the required and identified gaps before the return of the ICAO’s team.
“It would be highly irresponsible for any authority on Safety oversight to ignore its obligations to the international organisations on passengers safety. It may be possible not to close the gaps within the specified time but ICAO must be informed. It is also mandatory for ICAO to return to the country to verify compliance with the Safety Recommendations,” he said.