The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Tuesday affirmed that the country’s airlines and aircraft are safe for air travellers and operations.
The NCAA Director-General, Musa Nuhu, made the assertion while addressing journalists in Lagos.
Mr Nuhu was reacting to a statement allegedly made by the Chairperson, Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, that the industry was in critical condition.
Mr Adeyemi had in a public hearing said the industry might soon begin to record plane crashes from next week if quick actions, such as increased bailouts, were not implemented.
He had said that the N4 billion recently announced as bailout funds for the industry by the federal government was not enough to address the challenges of the industry.
According to the lawmaker, the industry needs about N50 billion to avoid disasters as airline operators have resorted to cutting corners in carrying out maintenance requirements for their aircraft.
Mr Nuhu, however, told journalists that he could categorically clarify that the country’s airplanes were safe, emphasising that the unsafe ones had been grounded.
He said: “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 standards as regards airworthiness of airplanes, even I as the DG, 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.
“Somehow, the story was twisted by whomever, for whatever, to make a sensational story and what this has done is that it has cast doubt on Nigeria civil aviation with international community.”
Mr Nuhu said the bad image could make it difficult for airlines to access international funds and to have good lease rate for the operators’ aircraft, while their insurance premium might increase.
“Of course, the twisting of the senator’s 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,” he said.
The authority, he said, was training its technical staff to make sure they were up to date by developing more skills and ability to do their jobs.
The D-G noted that the gesture had also been replicated on all operators including the airlines and ground handlers.
“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,” he said.
Mr Nuhu said that after the lockdown, NCAA performed an oversight function over airlines, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and other government agencies.
“Some people think FAAN is the regulator, but that is not so.
“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 some certain requirements,” he said.
According to Mr Nuhu, this explains why all the airports are not reopened at the same time.
“The Lagos and Kano airports were reopened when they were certified safe for operations after the lockdown was eased,’’ he said.
He said FAAN had about 26 airports and that it would be difficult for any organisation to open all of them at the same time.
The NCAA boss said that for this reason, all the airports were categorised based on their traffic and importance.
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