Safety at Nigeria’s Aviation Sector


Industry experts who are concerned with air safety always say that the main objective of investigating accidents and incidents is for the industry to learn what caused the mishap and prevent such accident from happening in future.

So such investigations are not aimed at apportioning blames, but to find out what happened and prevent such from happening again and this has led to improvement of air travel globally.

Accident investigation is so critical that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) expects every member country to have accident investigation body, so that whenever accident happens in that country it is investigated and reports made public.

In Nigeria, in response to the 2006 Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) was established in 2007 and its major duty is to investigate accidents and made recommendations, which the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as the regulatory agency in the industry is meant to ensure their implementation.

The duties of AIB and NCAA are well delineated. When accident or incident happens, NCAA is notified, which notifies AIB. AIB takes over the environment in which the accident happens and starts investigating the accident.

But despite the delineation of these responsibilities, there have been reports of clashes and disagreements between the two agencies. Industry observers posit that AIB tend to accuse NCAA of usurping its responsibilities and there are occasions AIB comes very short of blaming NCAA for non-implementation of its recommendations.

In fact, industry insiders told THISDAY that there is always the impression that AIB works so hard to investigate accidents and make recommendations, while the NCAA is always reluctant in implementing same.

Since it was established in 2007, the AIB had made about 147 safety recommendations and in 2017 alone under Akin Olateru as Commissioner, it made 66 recommendations in addition to the latest on Delta air Line serious incident in Lagos and the Helicopter accident involving the Vice President in Kabba, Kogi state.

It may be in reaction to the impression that while AIB makes recommendations after investigating accident NCAA fails in implementing same that the Director General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman, at the AIB’s Stakeholders Forum for Amendment of Its 2016 Regulations last week in Lagos, cleared the air on some of these clogging issues.

He noted that the NCAA has implemented or supervised the implementation of some of the recommendations and shed more light on the fact that if there were delays it might not have been caused by the regulatory authority.

Usman, made it obvious that NCAA and AIB are not rivals and that it would be wrong if anyone such impression or is pushing such impression.

“In second quarter of 2018, the AIB Safety Recommendation Committee was inaugurated by the Honourable Minister of State Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, under the chairmanship of the Commissioner, AIB with the following Terms of Reference: Collate all Safety Recommendations issued since the establishment of the Bureau; Determine the status and effectiveness of all safety recommendations issued since inception; and give an opinion and/or make necessary recommendations on the assessment made.

“Out of a total of 37 safety recommendations that were issued to the NCAA, 29 were fully implemented, two partially implemented, one yet to be implemented and on the remaining five, the NCAA did not agree with safety recommendations and had provided reasons. Recently, the NCAA had forwarded the status of implementation of the three outstanding safety recommendations to the Committee.

“The NCAA wishes to appreciate the effort of the AIB in issuing these safety recommendations. The safety recommendations that the Authority had implemented had assisted in improving our processes, led to the development of new and amendment of existing procedures, amendment of regulatory requirements and overall the strengthening of our safety oversight obligations.

“The Authority had also reviewed and analysed several observations and conclusions in the draft and final reports and had afterwards issued all operators Letters to address certain safety issues, re-issued documents and heightened its surveillance on certain approved entities.

“So, the issuance of safety recommendations and their appropriate implementation by the authority is invaluable to the functions of the authority,” Muhtar stated.

He went further to say that NCAA was progressively ensuring the implementation of its responsibility with respect to enforcing compliance by relevant stakeholders with the AIB safety recommendations.

“It is noteworthy to state that the whole process of management of the output from accident and incident investigation reports, with particular emphasis on the safety recommendations, form a major input into the NCAA Safety Oversight System that the NCAA uses to make the necessary safety oversight adjustment in order to maintain the safety resilience of the industry under the new State Safety Programme as required by ICAO.

“The NCAA is willing and ready to corporate and continuously improve the existing partnership with the Bureau to ensure safe skies within Nigeria,” Muhtar added.