The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman, has said Nigeria’s airspace has remained safe in the last six years without any accident or major incident because the regulator has maintained strict adherence to safety regulations.
Muhtar, who spoke to THISDAY in an exclusive interview in Lagos, said after many accidents in Nigeria, especially between 2005 as 2006, where many lives were lost, the government took actions to prevent such tragic accidents.
Investigations after the accidents showed that some of the tragic crashes were weather related and government made provision to prevent such by providing wind shear alert system, Doppler weather radar at some airports and also directed airlines to have install wind shear detection facility in the aircraft to alert the pilot.
He noted that this was the outcome of recommendations after the investigations of the accidents by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which were implemented by the federal government through the NCAA.
He noted that progressively, the few accidents that happened after that were not weather related and since he took over as the Director General of NCAA, he has ensured that airlines abide strictly to the rules of engagement as enshrined in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). He said the NCAA ensures that critical elements of safety operation are strictly adhered to and that there is good relationship between the regulator, which is NCAA and the airlines.
“The secret is about being able to implement all the critical elements as contained in the International Civil Aviation Organisation safety oversight organisation structures. This also includes educating and carrying the stakeholders along on the importance of maintaining very safe and high standards of safety,” he said.
Usman said cost of an accident was so huge that any cost expended to prevent it was justified.
“We all know that the cost of safety as against the cost of accidents are not comparable. We have this slogan in safety, which says, if you think safety is expensive you should try accident.
“So, we ensure adherence to safety regulations and security regulations. As I mentioned earlier, we encourage education, collaboration and good safety record is the result of that effort.
“So, it is all stakeholders, we carry them along and make them understand that everybody has a responsibility to maintain that level of safety. And that is why we call it-shared responsibility,” Usman said.
He said airlines go through due process and comprehensive documentation, inspection and demonstration before they are issues certificates in accordance to the rules.
“In a situation where we issue licenses, permits and other approvals, the person or the organisation that has been given that permit, approval or license has met the requirement.
“And our expectation is that for somebody or the organisation to continue to exercise the privileges assigned to those certificate or licenses, permit or approvals, it is dependent on the ability to continue to maintain that same requirement for the permit in the first place.
“Because any time a license, certificate, permit or approval is given, privileges are assigned to those certificate, licenses and so on,” he said.
He said air safety would be further improved when Nigerian airlines begin to conduct their major checks in Nigeria because it meant that the NCAA would monitor them closely and it would also cost the airlines less and safe Nigeria huge foreign exchange.
The last major accident in Nigeria was on October 3, 2013, when an Associated Aviation Limited Flight 361 crashed on take-off at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
Since then Nigeria has maintained good record in safety and, according to the Director General, both the NCAA and the airlines have continued to follow established safety proceedings, as the regulatory authority ensures that the rules are followed and when breached the airlines are penalized.
Industry observers are of the view that this may be the best period in Nigeria’s aviation sector in terms of good record on safety.