Stakeholders in the aviation sector have expressed fears that several airports may be shut down after the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) completes its audit across airports in the country.
Musa Nuhu, the director general of NCAA, had during the weekend revealed that the audit of all airports would be carried out soon and that any of the airports found deficient would be grounded.
The audit is coming shortly after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) carried out an audit across Nigerian airports and scored the country 70 percent, stressing that the NCAA needs to close the gaps in infrastructures, aerodromes, and ground aids, air navigation services, qualified technical personnel and surveillance and resolution of safety concern.
Nuhu said Nigeria will stop at nothing to close the gaps indicated during the last ICAO audit, even if it means shutting down many airports.
“Nigeria got 70 percent for a full audit. What we did was a full audit and the last time we had a full audit was in 2016 after the audit, there is a period of time they will send you their report after 90 days and then, you have 45 days to do something,” the NCAA DG explained.
“There is another 45 days, then another 30 days. This is a total of 210 days from my calculation before ICAO officially notified us. During that period, you have an opportunity to rectify some of the issues and close the gaps .”
He disclosed that it is almost impossible to go above 70 percent with ICAO if a country has not done airport certification and Nigeria has not done its airport certification for the five international airports due to some challenges and difficulties.
“There is no need for me to sign airport certification when I know our airports do not meet the requirements. That will be more disastrous for Nigeria and there is also what you call the Significant Safety Concern (SSC). ICAO issues that to some states; that means the oversight function of a state is fundamental fraud. We did not get an SSC,” he said.
He assured that in the next 12 to 18 months, after a proactive action plan, Nigeria would have done certification of the airports and would have closed some of the gaps.
“After this audit, in fact, we are going to check all the airports; it’s not only the international airport. For all the airports in Nigeria, we are going to audit them and see their situations. Any airport that has a deficiency will be grounded to the level of status they are,” he added.
Stakeholders have immediately reacted to the statement of the DG, reiterating that if the NCAA is really sincere with its audit, several airports will be shut down as most airports have deficiencies.
Just last week, Uba Sani, governor of Kaduna State, during his visit to Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development reported the dilapidated condition of the Kaduna Airport.
“The airport is an eyesore, no aircraft is landing there at the moment, that’s why I had to make this trip to your office so we can know what to do”, the governor said.
The governor explained further that, anytime anyone is trying to fly into Kaduna, they see Kano airport as an alternative or make use of the NAF Base or the Zaria air wings.
“Right now, I have spoken to Air Peace and United Airlines on the possibility of resuming flight operations at the airport but we found out there’s a need to upgrade and improve some of the facilities for effective aeronautical services,” the governor added.
With 32 airports, 26 operated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria does not have more than seven airports with guaranteed landing aids at night. In some of the airports like the Uyo; Enugu and Anambra airports, night landing is allowed on request. It is expected that some of these airports have permanent landing lighting and other aids before passing the audit.
John Ojikutu, security expert and former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos told BusinessDay that he wondered why airports that are not certified would be operating in the first place.
“What are the NCAA standards or requirements in its checklists for airports to be certified necessary to know? Runways/Taxiways and their lightning are necessary, runway approach safe areas, perimeter/security fences, aerodrome control services amongst others must have adequate skilled manpower for their management, services, and maintenance,” he said.
Ojikutu said that the state of the airports is the reason for the low grade it scored during the last audit, adding that if any airport is operating lower than the standards of its approved program, it is necessary for the airports to be grounded the same manner an airline is grounded.
Seyi Adewale, aviation stakeholder and the chief executive officer of Mainstream Cargo Limited said the last audit itself reveals that NCAA could not effectively supervise the Airports in accordance with its core mandate as clearly specified in relevant ICAO Annexes
“My suspicion would be based firstly on poor budgetary provisions, allocation, or approval for the same. Secondly, the NCAA’s oversight function relating to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) could be suspect considering some oversight difficulty especially as it relates to the ‘alleged overarching powers and interferences’ from the last Minister of Aviation who appeared to directly supervise the operations and running of both government agencies,” Adewale said.
He noted that whilst he doesn’t have the overall overview of all airports in Nigeria, there are many more airports in Nigeria presently that are sponsored by different state governments as proof of infrastructural projects.
He also noted that some of these airports have been handed over to the Federal Government because of a lack of capacity to effectively run or manage them, the Internationally designated airports are currently undergoing one form of upgrade, reconstruction, expansion, specialized projects, and designing including commercially viable Lagos and Abuja airports.
Ibrahim Mshelia, owner of West Link Airlines Nigeria and Mish Aviation Flying School said if an airport is deficient, the NCAA may have to downgrade the airport, and by extension shut it down to certain operations.
“I will support him if he decides to shut down some airports. The NCAA carries out oversight of all aviation operations. Any deficiency at the airport will cause problems for them. So, the NCAA has the right to shut down any airport that is deficient. All Nigerian airports need urgent upgrades and all Nigerian airports have deficiencies.
He said if he were to audit the airports based on his experience with airport markings, runway markings, and lightings, none of the Nigerian airports would pass the audit.
“Niamey, Cameron, Duala, Libreville, Gabon, Lome, and Accra airports are all properly marked but none of Nigeria’s airports will get a pass mark from me if I were to assess markings and lightings. A pilot lands and cannot find their way unless they use their landing lights,” Mshelia disclosed.