Chinedu Eze

Industry stakeholders have commended the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Saleh Dunoma for making it possible for the agency to pull through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP).

They said as a seasoned aviator, Dunoma took the challenge of closing the gaps earlier identified by ICAO with a deadline very close to the audit date.

The stakeholders noted that before the audit team arrived, FAAN was already prepared to meet the expectation of the world aviation body.

Reacting to the pass mark given to FAAN and the industry, the President of Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), Benjamin Okewu said the agency merited the approval given it by ICAO.

Okewu noted that initially there were open items but a lot of work was done by FAAN and all those problems were addressed and remarked that the agency has embarked on training of personnel, which is not conclusive but open-ended.

“I feel we merited the high score. During the last time there were open items but a lot of those issues were addressed. The issue of training is gradual so ICAO understands that this would happen over time and that it is ongoing.

“Fencing the airports both the airport fencing and perimeter fencing will take sometime but even now the airports are not porous as people claim because the runways are well protected and the security personnel are well trained. I think we merited the pass mark,” Okewu said.

Also speaking in the same vein, the industry consultant and the CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe said although the infrastructural status of the airports in the country may not attract a high rating but that so much work has gone into safety and security.

He said that Aviation Security personnel has been properly trained and they know their job and attributed this to Dunoma’s immense experience in the area of safety and security.

“Even when ICAO was coming I wasn’t thinking that anything would go wrong. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has done a lot to enforce compliance in the airlines and in the agencies. I think the Aviation Security is doing so well because Dunoma was in charge of Security before he became the Director of Operations.  He made sure that what was done, was done well.

The General Manager, Public Affairs of FAAN, Yakubu Dati said that before the ICAO audit, FAAN focused on providing critical infrastructure on the airside of all its airports in order to enhance landing and take off of flights.

The Authority, he said, continued to work on the rehabilitation and expansion of airport terminal facilities, providing landing aids and provision of runway lighting.

It kicked off the installation of airfield lighting at 13 airports and many of them have been completed.

Dati said there has been significant infrastructural improvement at the airports, adding that recent figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics attested to the fact that passenger movement has grown appreciably in recent years; from 13,891,677 passengers in 2010 to 14,899,958 passengers lifted in 2013.

“Surely this growth is outcome of deliberate strategic transformation by the government in the sector and indeed, a key performance indicator that the reforms are yielding positive outcomes.

Dati noted that before the ICAO team came to audit the facilities, the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA) came and completed a security assessment tour of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and gave the airport high marks.

“The US team also commended FAAN for what it called, consistency methodology in the implementation of TSA Security procedures which are of ICAO standards. The US TSA assessment has therefore provided an elixir to a prior sense of trepidation.

The airports have benefited from the upgrade of Air Navigational Services as well as aerodrome and ground aids, enabling a fine mix of technology and human interface,” he said.

With the pass mark given to these airports by ICAO, it is expected that they would now be certified by NCAA.