On Tuesday, the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika formally received the certificate awarded to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and noted that the three other major airports in Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt would also be certified soon.
The Lagos airport was certified by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Organisation (NCAA) under the standard and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The certification means that the airports has met the international standard of safety and security and the certification would last for three years and if any of the conditions that was met for the certification was breached, NCAA would nullify the certification.
There are many gains in the certification of the airport. One is that the Lagos airport has joined the internationally recongised airports in the world that met the minimum standard of safety and security, which means that airlines, pilots and private jet operators all over the world can fly to the airport because it has met all given standards of safety and security.
Secondly, it is expected that that the insurance premium on the airport would be reviewed downwards and this would also affect the insurance of Nigerian based aircraft, which would no more be adjudged to be operating in a harsh environment and therefore would enjoy reduced insurance premium.
Above all, the world would recognise Nigeria as a country that has very safe airport and it is the first airport in the West Africa sub-region that has been so certified.
Speaking on Tuesday in Abuja after receiving the certificate, Sirika noted that there have been many efforts made in the past to certify these major airports but the facilities had not met the given criteria until recently, adding that the Lagos airport and the other three airports that would be certified subsequently have met the given standard in accordance to ICAO Annex 14â€™s Standard and Aerodrome Certification.
â€œYou are all aware that the country had tried many times to certify our airports. This is a global requirement. The international Civil Aviation Organisation Convention and Annex 14 requires that airports must be standardised despite the fact that they will be under different management, under different ownership, under different cultures and climate, under different conditions and systems and values all over the world. But they must be standardised and they must reflect certain minimum standards of safety and of security. So we made it paramount and important that our airports are certified.
â€œWe promised the nation that we would get these airports certified. Today, by the grace of God we have achieved that milestone. We have started certifying our airports, beginning with the premier airports, the Murtala Muhammed Airport. It has been certified by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Organisation under the standard and recommended practices of ICAO,â€ Sirika stressed.
The Minister said that the vision and mission of the aviation sector is in line with that of the President, which is to ensure that the nationâ€™s institutions â€œare working very well; that they are strong, that they are efficient, they are dynamic, they are focused and that they are sensitive to the reasons why they are being established.â€
â€œWe have achieved that of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, that of Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja will be coming very soon, before the end of the year and we will continue to ensure that all our airports, both international and domestic are certified,â€ he added.
Sirika explained that with the certification, the value of the airports would increase and they would not only be recognised internationally as a safe and secure airport, but it would attract other gains, from low insurance premium to the patronage of airlines, which currently are not operating in Nigeria due to non grading of the airports.
â€œThis means that the value of these airports will increase; their insurance premium will be lowered and consequently their charges may be reduced and even ticket fares may reduce as a consequence of the certification. More importantly, the world will be at peace to know that flight operations are safe and secure in Nigeria as a country and this is a thing of pride for us. This is what we set out to achieve. All we are doing in this Ministry is to ensure that the airports are working and working very well. We must sustain this achievement,â€ Sirika stressed.
ICAO was represented at the event by its Regional Director, West and Central Africa Prosper Mintoâ€™o who said he was sent by ICAO to monitor the certification of the Lagos airport, noting that many aircraft accidents are caused by safety breaches at the runway and weather and that Nigeria is doing well in the area of weather prediction and now facility upgrade at the airports to meet security and safety standards in accordance with ICAO regulations.
Mintoâ€™o said ICAO is very proud of Nigeria, noting that that its achievements in the area of safety and security are not only for the good of the country but also for the good of Africa and the world.
He noted that improvement at the airports is an investment for the country because Nigeria has the highest air traffic in domestic airline operation in the region so it needs aviation infrastructure and safety that are up to speed with the best in the industry.
â€œWe will disseminate the information that the airport has been certified to the world through the aeronautical information service and the country will see the positive impact of the certification,â€ he said.
With the good record of maintaining accident free airspace in the last four years, with Category 1 safety status and now airport certification, Nigeria undoubtedly will become a major operational hub in Africa.