BusinessDay

Covid-19 exposed fractions in aviation industry – Nuhu

Musa Nuhu, director general of Nigeria Civil Aviation Industry, (NCAA), in this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, speaks on measures the NCAA is taking to ensure airlines operate safely amid foreign exchange and fuel price crisis.

Aero Contractors plans to resume operations soon. Have you concluded the audit of the airline?

Aero Contractors was not grounded based on safety issues, we did an audit of them because whatever audit you do, you have findings and they were all minor findings. There were no Level 1, 2, or 3 findings. They were very insignificant. We notified them. We audited them and found out that their issue was finance sustainability.

Aviation is safety sensitive and whenever you have financial difficulty, it is just a matter of time, you will not be able to comply with all the regulatory requirements and some may start cutting corners. So, before the financial issue became a safety issue, we had a discussion with them and they on their own before we took any action, agreed with our findings and suspended their operations to enable them to reorganise and get some funding to get more equipment. That is what they have done, we sat with them, they submitted, we asked for projection, which they did, we reviewed. The first one wasn’t good enough, they had to go and review it and it was quite satisfactory. We had MoU with them for payment of outstanding 5 per cent on Ticket Sales Charge (TSC).

So, they are fine. As far as we are concerned, they can resume operations.

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What is the safety level of airlines operating in Nigeria?

We are doing our best to ensure that there is continuous safety in the air and we ensure compliance with all our regulations and recommended practices. We work together with the industry to see how we can assist the industry, but the truth of the matter is that the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic did not only put the airlines in a difficult situation, but exposed a lot of fractions within the system. A lot of airlines didn’t globally survive the Covid-19 and some are still being affected from the impact of Covid-19.

When we thought we were recovering, then we had issues of foreign exchange, the Jet A1 crisis, which further put the industry in a very difficult situation. They are trying under difficult circumstances and that increases our workload to continue the surveillance to ensure that safety margins are adhered to and we are getting there.

How is the NCAA preparing for the yuletide demand?

There is always a rush for the travelling public in December. It is the airlines that will put measures in place and the airport operators and we ensure that proper mitigating measures are put in place to facility operations during the yuletide period.

As far as the issue of navigation facilities are concerned. Calibration has just started to ensure that they are all in top shape so that when the inclement weather comes in, flights can operate with minimum disruption.

What plans are you making to ensure minimal flight delays and cancellations during yuletide?

Flight cancellations can come from many reasons. I am not making excuses for any operator; sometimes, you have technical problems, weather and other disruptions that affect the flight schedules and sometimes, the airlines too, their planning is not the best. So, we work with everybody. It is not just the airlines; the airlines are part of the ecosystem in the airport. Whenever we have the yuletide, we are going to have a surge in passenger traffic that may be beyond the terminal capacity.

That one also has an impact on the departure of an airline. Sometimes, the handlers are overloaded because of the loads. It will have an impact on the plan of the airline. So, we are doing our best to mitigate the challenges.