NCAA, FAAN And Threat To Airlines
THE Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s threat to sanction airlines operating below standards is typical of the penchant of regulatory bodies in Nigeria to bark instead of biting. Sanctioning of airlines performing below standard is part of the statutory duties of the NCAA and such actions ought to be taken for granted.
The Director General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman, said if for any reason any operator was found to be operating below the set standard, he would not hesitate to ground the airline, noting that without safety, there would be no air transportation.
Furthermore, Captain Muhtar said no airline would operate within the Nigerian airspace without the Air Operating Certificate (AOC), from the authority. According to him, if an airline fails to use its license between 30 and 90 days, that airline would be barred from the said airspace and would have to go through the process of acquiring a new license altogether.
He said the NCAA would issue a Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A) to an aircraft operator before it is allowed to commence flight operations, as though these are not regulatory matters that ought to be taken for granted as NCAA’s duty, which need no advertisement.
Even so, what is important is an effective and efficient enforcement of the standards by the NCAA with the airlines having no choice but to comply.
While insisting on standards for airlines is appropriate, the NCAA cannot afford to play the ostrich on another matter: The efficiency of airlines is to a large extent also dependent on the condition of the airports. If the airports are of international standard, as the NCAA is wont to advocate, the airlines would also be in a position to render better and improved ground services.
A survey recently conducted by The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, a platform that documents airports and how people sleep in them out of poor services, rated the three major international airports in the country low. While the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, was rated 10th worst airport in Africa, the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja and Port Harcourt International Airport were ranked seventh and sixth worst airports on the continent.
At the same time, airports in other African countries were rated high. The airports in South Africa, Algeria and Ethiopia were among the best. As usual, NCAA’s sister agency Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), was quick to dismiss this rating when, indeed, the decay is glaring.
A few years ago, there was an outcry by foreign airlines operating in the country over the poor state of facilities at the international airports, which, in effect, reinforced the verdict issued in the recent survey.
Among other things, the airlines complained to the then Minister of Aviation, Fidelia Njeze, about the epileptic carousel at the arrival hall, lack of space to carry out proper checking, congestion at the terminal that prevents good airline services, among others.
Also, space limitation, inadequate facilities and obsolete equipment that adversely affect smooth operation have remained major challenges over the years and yet little or nothing has been done to remedy the situation.
The recent remodeling programme embarked upon by the immediate past Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, which many thought would herald a better regime has been stalled, sacrificed on the altar of politics. There are so many uncompleted projects at many airports across the country, while car parking or doing any business at those airports remains a nightmare. The air-conditioning system hardly works. Most of the conveniences are dysfunctional or even without water supply. With limited space for airline offices and passengers, it is often an unforgettable experience in agony passing through Nigerian airports.
With a security system that is compromised and porous, unauthorised persons easily find their way into the terminal building leading to theft of luggage and harassment of passengers. With airports that are such an embarrassment, how can the airlines render quality ground services?
Government should, therefore, step up action on whatever it intends to do to bring sanity to the airports. The airlines must be regulated and sanctioned when in breach, especially of air safety rules and others, but the condition of the airports must also improve to make their ground services more efficient.
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