Stakeholders decry dearth of personnel at NCAA
Worried by the recent restriction of Med-View planes from Europe, stakeholders in the aviation industry have called for improved capacity at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to enhance its oversight functions.
The concerned stakeholders said though the apex regulatory body may be willing to intensify safety and economic audit of both local and international carriers, it was handicapped with limited inspectors in its fold.
Should the current manpower deficit persist, Nigeria will continue to face such embarrassments such as the restraint of Nigeria’s flag carrier, Med-View Airlines Plc.
Recall that the European Union last week restricted Med-View flight operations to the region over alleged safety concerns and certification audit that has not been updated.
The Guardian learnt that the restriction was due to the airlines’ delay to have its Boeing767 aircraft audited for international operations in accordance to the EU airspace rules. The prohibition is, however, restricted to Med-View designated plane, as a wet-leased plane has been deployed to continue operation on the Lagos-London route.
Though NCAA is set to meet European Union Air Safety Committee (ASC) of the European Commission (EC) later this week to resolve the issue, the apex regulatory body has also disclosed plans to conduct a full scale audit of Med-View Airlines’ operations to ensure safety of its aircraft.
Secretary General of the Aviation Round Table Initiative (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), noted that it would not be difficult for the CAAs in Europe to detect issues with aircraft used in Nigeria, since most of the planes were manufactured in Europe and they are already in their monitoring system.
“So, it is not difficult for them to see an aircraft whose insurance has expired. Once that comes up on their system, they just shut down the aircraft; they don’t wait. That is how it works over there,” Ojikutu said.
He added that the same method is not the case here in Nigeria because the mode of operation is manual and inspectors are limited. According to him, “Go to NCAA today, you’ll find that they do not have enough inspectors to go to field to find out what and what is wrong. When is a particular aircraft due? Do they have them on the computers to know? That restriction on Med-View must have even caught them unawares too. If they have them on the system, the computer would have raised a flag for inspectors to go on the field.
“Truth is that NCAA is handicapped and they must come clean on this. How many inspectors do they have? We have about seven airlines in this country and the aircraft operators that are not commercial. We need inspectors that must go from time to time to check when they are due for D, C and B checks. How many inspectors do NCAA have to do that? That is a major challenge,” he said.
Ojikutu, advised the regulator to train officials within the sector to become inspectors, adding that “one of the problems we have is that people (airlines officials) on the field are more experienced than inspectors working with NCAA.”
Chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI), Capt. Dung Pam, added that whereas NCAA had stepped up vigilance, the new development shows the need to beam searchlight more on operators that also conduct scheduled/regular international flights and are subject to unscheduled ramp inspections from other regulators who may have more stringent safety and security requirements.
Pam said: “By this singular act, the European Commission (EC) shows that it is not satisfied with the standard of safety/security oversight of the NCAA, exhibited by Med-View (a designated carrier as per our bilateral air service agreement BASA with the UK).
“It is embarrassing to say that as far as the EC are concerned, Benin and Mozambique currently have a better standing than Nigeria where aviation safety standards are concerned.
“We have made tremendous progress from the embarrassing encounter of 1997 when the UK banned all Nigerian registered airlines from their airspace. We don’t want to see a repeat of that era.
“The NCAA indeed needs to increase its vigilance in both the economic and safety oversight functions, as low standards of economic regulation will eventually impact adversely on safety and security standards,” Pam said.
Spokesperson of the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, said the temporary restriction of Med-View is not an indictment on the regulator or its operations.
Adurogboye said the detection of discrepancies in operations is for knowledge-sharing based on standard practice in a country and not to cast aspersion.