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As a team of inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States visit Nigeria for a five-day inspection tour, there are indications that the country is set to retain the Category 1 certificate it received in 2010.

By Dike Onwuamaeze

Nigeria is set to defend the Category 1 certificate it received from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States in 2010. This follows the arrival of the United States’ team to Nigeria for a five-day inspection tour from March 31 to April 4, 2014. The outcome of the inspection will determine whether Nigeria will retain or lose the Category 1 (Cat-1) status it won in August 2010 after scaling the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) audit in July 2010. An IASA Cat 1 status signifies that Nigeria conforms to the international air safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nation’s technical agency for aviation that oversees international standards and recommends practices for aircraft operations and maintenance. It also implies that Nigeria has evolved reliable legal and regulatory institutional frameworks that are capable of supervising air carriers in accordance with ICAO rules. Furthermore, Cat-1 certification allows Nigerian airlines to operate direct flights from Nigeria to the United States and gives them access to cheaper insurance and aircraft leasing charges.

Benedict Adeyileka, director-general, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), promised that the country was ready for the exercise, which would audit the country’s compliance to ICAO’S regulations. The key areas the inspectors will beam their searchlight are primary aviation legislations, specific operating regulations, surveillance obligations and resolution of safety issues. Other areas that will be of concern to the inspectors are technical guidance and tools, licensing and certification obligations, state civil aviation system and safety oversight as well as technical personnel qualification and training. The inspectors will also visit the Arik Air to assess its facilities. The airline is a major beneficiary of the 2010 certification, which enabled it to operate a direct flight from Nigeria into and out of the United States.

Hope that Nigeria will scale the recertification inspection is anchored on sustainable development that has taken place in the country’s aviation industry within the past three years. Yakubu Dati, spokesman of the aviation agencies in Nigeria, explained that the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has fully complied with ICAO standards in the areas of firefighting and rescue operations. “Before July 2011, there were only 20 fire tenders available but now FAAN has 46 fire tenders. In addition, 450 brand new kits, (comprising equipment and personal protective gears) have been provided for all firemen to enable them carry out their duty efficiently, safe guard and secure the airport terminals, as well as staff and passengers,” Dati said.

Moreover, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has recorded measurable progress since the country was awarded the Cat-1 status in 2010 by deploying new air traffic management system under its TRACON project to improve the safety of Nigeria’s airspace. “The TRACON project has been completed, with approach radar control, in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt. Also, area radar commenced in Lagos and Kano ACCs. These have significantly increased the airspace capability of the Nigerian aviation industry,” Dati said.

Another development is the introduction of control tower solar power for navigational aids. This was unavailable for a long time but currently, the country has six navigational aids and 11 control towers to its credit. Nigeria has also introduced flight-tracking system, Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS), which was not in the country before the certification in 2010.

“Another pertinent milestone is the IOSA certification and interlining, which had never been done in Nigeria. Two local airlines have been successfully certified under this programme and the exercise is still going on,” Dati said.


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