ICAO Set To Audit Nigeria’s Aviation Industry

ICAO Set To Audit Nigeria’s Aviation Industry

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) will in August this year, carry out audit of Nigeria’s air transport industry to ensure it abides by international safety standard and recommended practices.

ICAO audits the aviation safety and aviation security oversight capacities of its 193 member states. In the safety domain, the audits are carried out under the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP). During a USOAP audit, ICAO assesses the effective implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight system and conducts a systematic and objective review of a state’s compliance with the provisions of the convention or national regulations and its implementation of ICAO Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPS) procedures and aviation safety best practices.

ICAO, which conducts the audit about every three or four years, would be auditing Nigeria at a time its air safety is one of the best in the world in terms of flight operations. Since 2016, Nigeria had only lost three persons in aircraft accident involving civil aviation. That had to do with helicopter accidents. Since 2014 Nigeria has not recorded any major accident involving schedule flight service. This is the area where many industry operators give kudos to the past Buhari’s administration.

But what made this possible is the collaboration between the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which is now Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Nigeria air safety improved significantly when NCAA began to effectively implement the recommendations of NSIB, especially after Captain Musa Nuhu took over as Director General of the regulatory body and Akin Olateru took over the then AIB. He is now the Director General of NSIB.

The two critical agencies in aviation worked in sync to significantly improve safety in Nigeria’s airspace; that now the country is projected to be the safest airspace in Africa in terms of rate of major incidents and accidents in civil aviation followed by Morocco, Egypt and South Africa.

Last year Olateru spoke on how prepared NSIB was prepared to sustain its coverage of the aviation industry in accident investigation and spread its tentacles to maritime and rail. He disclosed further that the Bureau achieved 82 percent of implementation of safety records so far, adding that it worked with stakeholders in the implementation of the recommendations.

“We achieved 82 percent implementation. That is not different from what the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) can achieve, we collaborate with stakeholders on the implementation,” Olateru said.

Spokesman of NSIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi explained  why Nigeria improved significantly in air safety and also said that Nigeria is prepared for the forthcoming ICAO audit.

“The industry is prepared for the audit. NSIB and NCAA are ready. There has been a lot of improvement in terms of safety recommendations because if you carry out investigations you will notice areas that need to be improved on to enhance safety; so, you make safety recommendations to NCAA and the airline operators. We have a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the safety recommendations. We have also tried to make sure that it is not only that the recommendations were implemented but that the implementation achieved the desired goals,” Oketunbi said.

When asked why the then AIB delayed most of the report of the accidents before 2017, he said that there were many factors that were responsible for that.  He attributed the delay to human and other factors in the system, including lack of funding.

“But when Olateru came in he devised creative ways of getting funding. Also, then we had personnel that were not galvanized enough to be up to the task. What is important, however, is that we have made a lot of progress. There were other factors that were brought to bear, which enhanced quick investigation by the Bureau,” he said.

On the combining rail and maritime with air, which is multi-modal accident investigation, Oketunbi said the Bureau has enough trained personnel and if it wants more it would source from experienced persons on rail and maritime, but on air investigation, it has enough hands. He also disclosed that many of the personnel trained overseas on accident investigation were also exposed to air, maritime and rail; so, many of the Bureau’s technical personnel have the right skills to investigate the three modes of transportation.

“We have more than enough personnel. For air transport, we have enough investigators to serve the whole Africa, but we have to address maritime and rail transport. The ab initio training our personnel were exposed to incorporated accident investigation in air, maritime and rail. However, all we need to do is to recruit those who have experiences in those two other areas. Over the years we have garnered experience in air accident investigation. All we need is to develop maritime and rail. The residual knowledge is there and the facilities are there,” Oketunbi said.

He said that NSIB has been helping other countries in Africa in accident investigation. The Bureau deploys personnel whenever it is called upon by some countries on the continent, which it has Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with.

“We are helping other countries to lift up their own investigation bodies. We have MoU with Benin Republic; that in case anything happens they contact us and we will go and help them. We also have MoU with Sao Tome and Principe. We had helped them conduct accident investigation and whenever they call us, we go and help them. We are still signing agreements with more countries and we have enough personnel we can deploy to conduct investigation for other nations in air transport,” Oketunbi also said  to THISDAY.

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