By Okuneye Moyosola
Harold Demuren is a former Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). At a recent quarterly Business Breakfast Round Table meeting organized by Aviation Round Table (ART), he pointed out some of the reasons why NCAA may not implement some of the recommendations of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB). He also spoke to MMS Plus as he advocated for support for indigenous airline operators in the country.
Relationship between NCAA and AIB
The AIB and the NCAA in Nigeria which is the accident investigator and the regulator have one thing in common. It’s a common goal which is to improve aviation safety and prevent accident investigation. We are not fighting, we are neighbors and we are in the same game. Unfortunately in Nigeria and also in other parts of the world, there is so much competition and it should not be because both organizations have the same goal
Secondly, they are created to promote aviation safety and prevent accident. The role of AIB is to determine the cause of accident but the quality of those things are very crucial. AIB doesn’t have the authority to enforce their safety recommendations. They have no legal authority to implement these recommendations. They also don’t have the legal authority to impose those regulations. They have to hand it over to the regulator. Its not in every case that NCAA accepts those recommendations. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. That is the reason why they must work together. If National Assembly is going to enact a law and you are keeping it as a secret, you don’t want Mr president to know. You just enact it, if he doesn’t sign it, its not a law. You don’t do that, we have to talk. Effective communication is very important.
The regulator must evaluate the safety recommendations using a risk-based approach. You don’t just say you don’t like it or its good, you will do it. You must evaluate it and that is a risk-based approach. In doing this, you know likelier the cost of doing it and the time of implementing. All these are important.
Sometimes when they look at the cost and the risk involved, they opt not to implement it. They may also decide to implement it not in full but in part or sometimes they may duffer the time. If you look at it, all over the world, about 82% of world recommendations by National Transportation Safety Body (NTSB) has made thousands of recommendations) have been closed. NTSB has said that they have closed these recommendations and it has been implemented. About 6% of these recommendations are still open. That is Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said they agree and will implement. The remaining 12%, historically will not do it. So its not bad at all.
A regulator will always want to do it if it’s the right recommendation and it can save life. It is not the amount of recommendation that you made that matters, it is the quality. When you make some recommendations, they will look at the cost, benefits and the risk. We are not flying aero plane in only Nigeria, they are flying all over the world. For example, If you make a recommendation that we should put something on the aircraft, we have to get the concurrence of the manufacturer.
The risk-based approach I mentioned requires leadership. I am talking about active leadership. It also requires you to manage competence, capability to do it, proactive caution and a robust insurance system.
What can be done to ensure that NCAA and AIB do not infringe on each other’s functions?
The regulations of both agencies are very clear. Both agencies have specific functions. NCAA is to regulate aviation safety, while AIB is primarily saddled with investigating accidents. They are two different bodies but they serve the same purpose of ensuring safety in the long term. So, both of them must promote safety and prevent accident. They must work together and not cross the line.
You talked about the place of integrity in these recommendations. How can we ensure that those who make these recommendations have that at the back of their minds?
We must have quality people. Quality people are important in the leadership and they must have the expertise to investigate. For example, an old lady is taken care of by her children. They get a nanny for her and she is expected to take her vitamins every day. On one fateful day, she forgets to take the vitamins and she stepped out that day. She was hit by a car and she died.
What is the cause of the death? She was hit by her car and even if she had taken her vitamins, she would have still died because she lost blood. That is what we are saying. You must get the real cause of the accident. You must make laws that will enable people to cross the road without been hit.
How can our industry attain international standards as we have in other countries?
We need to put some money. Aviation industry cost a lot of money. We also need to create an enabling environment for the airlines to operate. You can’t be wrong supporting your own. If you don’t support your own and you are supporting foreign airlines; who is going to support yours? They will die. These indigenous operators need help and they also need sustainability. Nigerian government should support these airlines. France support Air France, Britain support British Airways. Nigeria must support indigenous operators in the country also.