BREAKING: Nigeria has more aircraft in its inventory than entire West African states – Capt Nuhu

In this interview, the DGCAA, Capt Nusa Nuhu, speaks on developments in Nigeria’s aviation industry, including the crash of a Jabiru J430 aircraft in Lagos lately, supply of contaminated fuel to airlines, growth of general aviation, ICAO safety audit slated for September, among other issues. Inventory

Ime Akpan

Air First Hospitality and Tours aircraft accident…CONTINUE READING

It is unfortunate that everyone is talking about the crash already when the Nigerian Safety Investigation Board (NSIB) has not come up with its safety report on it. Some people want to demonise Mr Gbolahan Abatan who has done a great job for us since he came onboard. Before he took over the NCAA job, he was doing well as a private entrepreneur and in line with the civil service rules, he resigned properly from Air First Hospitality and Tours. The aircraft in question doesn’t belong to him, but he manages it. I think we should not demonise him for whatever reason

Information management of the accident

Unfortunately, in this era of social media, you cannot really control people. Events are reported in real time. As it is happening, people are there.

On information management, you have to know what happened before you can tell anybody; you can’t predict an accident and for accident, NSIB is the one responsible and I think the director general of NSIB did a good job. As soon as the accident happened, he said they were investigating and he talked about the processes.

Unfortunately, most of the people that write are not responsible people like the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC). They just go out there to write whatever they want to write. It is quite difficult when everybody with a smart phone has become a journalist; that is the reality of life. Some are ignorant and others because of mischief. We will try to do what we can as soon as possible.

Six aircraft minimum for start-up airlines

The problem is that a lot of the airlines don’t even have the capacity to meet current financial obligations. If you have three aircraft for instance and you lose one out of it, it has become a problem to meet up with your operations. Then, you start to have issues of flight delays, cancellations and all that. The number of aircraft you will have will depend on the kind of operations you want to do. You can imagine somebody who comes in with just one or two aircraft and one of the aircraft goes out of business…think of what will happen. For you to have six aircraft, it shows you have very strong financial background of running an airline.

It is not only for new entrants, but the old ones too have a period by which they have to comply. If everybody has one or two aircraft, we will keep having this recurrent problem. We have to avoid that….CONTINUE READING

People will criticise, but every country is different. We have to look at our own peculiar history and try and come (up) with solutions, but regulations are not cast in stones. If situation changes the regulation would be reviewed accordingly. Whenever it is necessary, we don’t have to wait for five years before we make amendments.

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What again we are trying to do is to institutionalise NCAA; we want to make NCAA a proper institution so that the standard across the board is maintained. It is still an ongoing process.

General aviation

General aviation is very critical and if you look at any aviation nation that is developed today, they have a thriving general aviation and general aviation produces experience for the airline industry.

General aviation has a potential to grow. We are not quite there yet. The feedback is good, but we are just getting over from the audit. GA is quite huge and…I will say the GA can bring as much revenues as the airline industry because it is quite huge and has a great potential. It is something that we will do gradually so as not to overstretch our resources.

With time as we get over the audit, there are quite a few retreats that we are going to have. There are quite a lot of things we have to do, but we can’t do everything at the same time. We are going to prioritise them and with time, we shall get there.

Nigerian airlines designated for regional, international operations

Ibom Air is going to Ghana soon and we are working with Air Peace to assist them to London. We are also working with OmniBlu to fly to London as well. For United Nigeria under the BASA agreement, the ministry has given some of the airlines to fly regional and international routes, but most want to concentrate on regional flights for now. Only Air Peace is going international routes for now.

Toxic fuel supply and illegal fuellers

I need to clarify something; the approval we give is not general. When you are given a license to supply Jet A1, it doesn’t mean you can go to any airport in Nigeria. There is an approval for specific airports. Some have approvals for some airports, but don’t have for another. It is based on this cooperation that we have filed with the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) that we are addressing this and I think the director of airworthiness should have sent out a letter to that.

The issue of fuel contamination is not specific and we have contacted IATA, but it said none of the international airlines has reported fuel contamination and on the domestic side the same, too.

This is a kind of a standalone case and it is also an alarming one and we have to look at the entire process of supply value chains, starting from outside the sector. We are not resting on our oars and we have to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. We have set up a committee comprising NCAA, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), NSIB and others to make their report to us.

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It is also the responsibility of the operators and the pilots and engineers to make sure that contaminated fuel doesn’t get to the system.

There was a gap between the two regulatory bodies – NCAA and NMPDRA. This is a gap that we have closed. We are working with the NMPDRA and they have been very cooperative. Based on the list we sent to them, they have written back to us that they are taking action on some of the fuellers.

Nigerian fleet inventory

There are more aircraft in Nigeria registry than the entire west African states, the number of airlines, AOC, airports and co they have are not as many as we have in Nigeria. It is very huge, complex and there are huge demands to cope with in the industry.

From records, about 12 years ago, we had only 16 AOCs, right now, we have 32, out of which 12 are scheduled operators. We cannot keep operating the way we are operating. Changes have to come in and we have started the process, we are acquiring a regulatory software and in the next one or two weeks, we are going to be ready with the software and training of our staff is going to start on the use of the software. It is a three years program and at the end of the period, we are going to make sure that 80 to 90 percent of NCAA processes are automated and also third party is going to be automated.

It is a major paradigm shift from paper based work to automation and if you don’t do the proper homework, you are going to run into trouble. You might run into more crises. Some we are working with a company to ensure we have this. Automation exposes you to cyber risk and so we have developed a manual that enhances cyber security. Our technical library, we have made it e-library and with this, any staff of NCAA can log into the library and get same information wherever he is. All these are geared towards having a quality agency across the board.

There are so many other things that we are putting in place and we have to do them. By the end of next year, the impacts of these things we are putting in place will show on the industry. We have to collaborate with everyone.

Safety audit

After the safety audit that ends in September, ICAO is telling us that we have to start the security audit in November, which is just six weeks in between. I think that is too much and there is no country that faces that. We just wrote to ICAO to give us more time. Six weeks is inadequate. Though, there are some of the issues between safety and security audits that overlap. There is a lot to do.

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Civil aviation master plan (CAMP)

It’s unfortunate that some people don’t seek clearance on some areas of the industry that they are not familiar with. They just go out to the public and condemn people. We had an agreement with ICAO on CAMP and actually I signed for Nigeria. CAMP is a comprehensive plan for Nigeria, looking at all the components of aviation industry, looking at what we have put in place, economic projection for Nigeria, trying to build a roadmap for us as a country for the next 10 years.

What this does is that every sector will know what it needs to do; the regulatory body, the industry is going to grow at a particular rate annually and we put in the plans to push this growth.

After audit, the implementation will start and the good thing is that when they come to Nigeria, they are going to talk with aviation agencies, the airlines, finance people, tourism boards, customs and others. Everything that is remotely or directly connected to the aviation industry will be involved in this. So, we can have an all encompassing roadmap for Nigeria’s aviation industry.

If you look at the industry in Nigeria, we are under-travelled, but the sector is growing with several orders by our airlines. We need to grow the industry with the growth of our airlines. It is going to help us and also, it is a requirement and we are killing many birds with one stone.

AFCAC meeting in Senegal

The African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) called a meeting of the directors general of Africa CAA and I think 34 out of 52 directors general attended the meeting while others sent representatives because they were not able to attend.

We went to discuss actual civil aviation in Africa like sustainable fuel, which is coming up in Dubai in a few months. We talked about environment, safety vis-à-vis the Abuja Safety Target, actual secretariat of AFCAC and their finances and their programmes. It was a good action. Soon, AFCAC is going to send some questionnaires to the African CAAs so that we know what the issues are and the current actions they are taking.

We also discussed extensively about states assisting other states during audits and Nigeria was commended for assisting Sierra Leone.

During that meeting, I received verbal requests from about three countries that needed Nigeria’s assistance and we are ready to assist them when they write officially. We can assist the way we can as a country.

The whole idea is about us within us in Africa. We have the whole resources and it started in South Africa. South Africa has also helped a lot of countries. We are putting our resources together to see how we can assist one another under the guidance of AFCAC….CONTINUE READING