ICAO Certification Reveals How Nigeria International Airports Are Poorly Rated in Africa

Chinedu Eze

It has emerged that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), poorly rates Nigeria’s international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu, because they lack needed state-of-the art facilities to make them friendly to travellers.

For airports to meet given standard in accordance to ICAO regulations, international airports are supposed to have both security and perimeter fencing, comprehensive runway lights, high level of security, easy internet access, high safety standard and modern facilities for easy passenger facilitation.

 In 2017, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in collaboration with ICAO certified the Abuja and Lagos airports but since then the two airports had fallen short of the requirements for their recertification.

Ideally, Nigeria ought to certify all the five airports designated for international operations.

During the certification in 2017, NCAA said the certification of an aerodrome entailed making sure that everything was current, working and monitored on regular basis.

Such airports, it said, must meet all elements of safety oversight such as aviation legislation, operating regulations, civil aviation system, personnel training and certification, development of guidance materials and safety critical information, as well as surveillance and resolution of safety concerns.

The erstwhile  Director General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, told THISDAY that when international airports are not certified by ICAO in any member country, such country is categorized as high risk and this influences the airlines that may want to operate in the country, the type of aircraft that could be allowed to operate in such airports and above all, non-certification of airports increases insurance premium, the cost of leasing and the reluctance of lessors in leasing aircraft on long term to airlines that operate in such airports.

In September last year, ICAO carried out Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) and Nigeria scored 70 per cent but recorded low points on airports, which were not certified prior to the audit.

According to Captain Nuhu, the five international airports cannot be certified in isolation. The five must be made to meet the given ICAO standard before they will be certified.

During the last audit in September 2023, which was done under Nuhu, he explained that he decided not to certify the airports before the audit because if he had done that and the inspectors found out that they did not meet the required standard, Nigeria would be in worse situation.

“There were critical elements that were lacking at the airport, like adequate fire coverage but I was under immense pressure to certify some of the airports but that would have been very dangerous because ICAO would have identified them as major failure of the regulatory function of the Civil Aviation Authority. We have been working studiously with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to upgrade some of the airport facilities. At a time, we had to downgrade some of the airports because there were no markings, clear signages, adequate fire service.

“However, I give credit to the then FAAN Managing Director then (Mr. Kabir Mohammed) because of his commitment. Some of the airports like Abuja and Kano were close to meeting the standard for certification, but there were also Port Harcourt, Enugu and Lagos. We concentrated on Lagos to making it our gateway. We planned to certify the five airports after they have met the needed requirements,” he explained.

In a recent presentation done by Assistant General Manager and Personal Assistant to the Director of Airdrome and Airspace Standards (DAS), Mr. Sylvester Dakup, he gave details of what is being done to prepare the international airports for recetification.

Dakup said prior to the certification of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (NAIA) and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos in 2015, FAAN requested ACI (Airport Council International) Airport Excellence (APEX) to conduct technical inspection of the two international airports.

“The outcome of the technical inspection revealed several findings which resulted in ACI APEX recommendations for each of the airports. The implementation of the safety critical recommendations by FAAN, forms the bases for the commencement of certification process for the two airports which eventually lead to the certification of NAIA and MMIA in 2017. The outstanding findings generated from the certification Technical Inspection and on-site verification by NCAA teams were harmonized with the outstanding APEX recommendations to form the post certification surveillance corrective action plan for the implementation of the operator in line with agreed timelines.”

According to Dakup, at the expiration of NAIA & MMIA aerodrome certificates in November, 2020, a six months extension was granted to FAAN to operate the aerodromes due to COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on the aviation sector on the condition that FAAN would resolve all outstanding certification CAP items (136 for MMIA & 29 for NAIA) and complete the re-certification process within the extension period.

“The six months extension expired on 7th May 2021 without any meaningful progress in the implementation of the CAP items, most especially for MMIA. Since May 2021, the re-certification process for the two aerodromes have been ongoing,” he said.

On the certification of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano (MAKIA), the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa (PHIA) and the AkanuIbiam International Airport, Enugu (AIIA), Dakup explained that in 2018, FAAN again requested ACI Airport Excellence (APEX) to conduct technical inspection on the remaining three international airports (MAKIA, PHIA and AIIA).

“The current status of implementation of the APEX recommendations for each of the three aerodromes is presented on the plan of action provided. All the five international airports have conducted the technical and on-site verification exercises and are currently on Phase III of the certification exercise. However, due to the prolonged efforts to certify the international aerodromes, several high level management meetings comprising NCAA/FAAN were held to identify the root cause of the non implementation of CAP items by the operator.

“At one of the meetings, it was agreed that the five international airports should conduct a desk audit to review the implementation status of the technical and on-site CAPs and also review the schedule of activities for the certification of each airport. This is to determine possible dates for the transition from Phase III of the certification process to Phase IV based on the level of implementation of the certification CAP items to enable FAAN concentrate on airports that have fewer issues and certify the airports one after the other rather take all the airports at a time,” Dakup explained.

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