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Nigerian aviation stakeholders’ concerns over floppy regulatory oversight threatening air safety

*Aviation industry operators and experts have roundly indicted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and Nigerian Airspace Management Authority for recent apparent regulatory lapses involving air incidents and accidents, and air travellers’ safety concerns, stating that ‘the industry is not properly regulated. Every aircraft should be monitored’

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Against the backdrop of serious incidents and accidents in the country’s aviation sector, industry experts have indicted the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) for their regulatory laxity in the enforcement of oversight functions.

The professionals said the NCAA ineffective regulatory affairs had reflected in the number of air mishaps that have occurred in the country lately.

Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, FCIArb, Honourable Minister for Aviation and Aerospace Development (r) in a briefing with some top Aviation officials

ConsumerConnect reports the latest of such incidents cum accidents was the serious incident that involved Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, Honourable Minister for Power, and others aboard a jet November 3, 2023, at the Samuel Ladoke Akintola Airport, in Ibadan, Oyo State capital.

The aircraft reportedly not designated for charter service was involved in charter operations, and it landed short of the runway in the night and crashed into the bush in the ancient city.

Likewise, on August 2 this year, a single engine, fixed wing, Jabiru aircraft with registration number 5NCCQ and three persons on board crash-landed into an old communication pole inward Ikeja Bus Stop on Oba Akran Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos State.

Prior to those two incidents, report indicated there had been records of helicopter accidents that claimed several lives.

It is equally noted that on August 28, 2020, in the thick of the Coronavirus  (COVID-19) pandemic, two air travellers died, and a third was critically injured and later died in hospital after a helicopter crashed into a residential area in Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos.

The dead include the pilot and a passenger in the Bell 206 helicopter operated by Quorum Aviation.

In their collective assessment of the regulatory oversight on the Nigerian aviation industry, the experts have attributed those accidents to growing ineffective and inefficient oversight function of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

The stakeholders also accused the NCAA of losing its “firmness and restrict monitoring of flight operations”.

The experts particularly, referenced the latest serious incident at the Ibadan Airport, which involved HS25B aircraft with Permit for Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF) with core sign, 5NAMM operated by Flint Aero.

The aircraft was reported to have hit the ground before reaching the runway, lost control and crashed into the bush.

The regulatory authority confirmed the incident, and said that the Consumer Protection Officer (CPO) arrived at the scene of the crash at 06:18hrs (6:18 a.m.)  November 4, 2023 and after having received a call at 05:58hrs (5:58 a.m) on crash of a private aircraft (5N-AMM) on runway 22 which arrived at 20:13hrs (8:13 p.m) from Abuja on November 3, 2023 .

NCAA further said Mr. Omoyele  Airport Control Manager from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and Mr. Bepo Joshua, Terminal Head at NCAA, were at the scene of the crash in Ibadan.

The regulatory agency noted: “Upon observation, it was observed that the aircraft touched down into the bush before the beginning of Runway 22.

“There was an impact on the lights in the bush just before the beginning of threshold on the runway.”

Key regulatory breaches at Ibadan Airport, others

Industry observers have established two regulatory breaches about the serious incident.

One was that the aircraft used for the flight was a non-commercial aircraft not meant for a charter service because it does not have the permit to operate charter, according to report.

The second fact is that the Ibadan Airport is designated as a “sunset airport”, as communicated in the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).

By implication, flight operations to the airport should be from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., but flight involved in the incident left Abuja at 6:41 p.m. and arrived at 8:13 p.m.

Airline operators said that two regulations were breached in the case of the Ibadan Airport incident: an aircraft that was meant for private service was used for charter service, and it operated into an airport designated for Visual Flight Rule (VFR), that is sunset airport, ThisDay report said.

They stressed that this could be attributed to lapses of the regulatory authority.

Such breaches have become common in recent times, said the experts.

An industry professional stated: “Ibadan is known as daylight airport. It is surprising that the flight was allowed to leave Abuja for Ibadan at that time.

“That was a big risk. The aircraft does not have Air Operator Certificate (AOC). It has PNCF.

“Using aircraft that is private to operate charter services is eroding the market.”

The expert, who is into a charter service further remarked: “It means the industry is not properly regulated. Every aircraft should be monitored.

“Also, the Visual Flight Rule at Ibadan airport was compromised. We operate charter services and pay 5 percent charge to NCAA.

“We also face stricter regulation in terms of maintenance to ensure that aircraft that operate charter services are safer.

“Those that have permit as privately operated aircraft do not pay this 5 percent charge and are not subjected to strong maintenance monitoring,”

Another operator who is an executive of a schedule commercial airline, reportedly noted that breaching the VFR at Ibadan Airport recently, was a compromise on safety.

He regretted that similar flight operations had been happening at the same airport and others that have similar conditions.

“Although the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) is yet to publish its initial report on the incident, we cannot talk about what caused the incident but the flight had no business going there without navigational aids.

“Also, as a private aircraft it should not have been allowed to operate charter service. That was violation of standing regulation,” the expert argued.

The airline operator also said: “The operator of that aircraft can be accused of tax evasion because airlines that operate charter services pay 5 percent tax to NCAA.

“A lot of things are happening these days. Last time an airline that had not operated for one hour has its AOC renewed but airlines that that have operating for years face difficulty in renewing their AOC.”

An official who works at Ibadan Airport was quoted to have said, that the last incident was not the first time an aircraft was flying to the airport late.

The source confirmed that many aircraft do so, and the Airport Management and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) are notified to extend operations time until the aircraft arrived.

Stakeholders advocate stricter regulation, enforcement of safety standards

In his contribution, Captain Ado Sanusi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aero Contractors,  however, called for stricter regulation, more safety oversight and strong enforcement of 5 percent charges collection by the NCAA.

Sanusi disclosed he learnt that several aircraft meant for private use had been operating charter service.

The aviation executive also urged the NCAA to intervene and stop the practice.

The regulatory agency, he suggested, may need more manpower in order to efficiently carry out its duties in the Nigerian aviation sector.

Sanusi further urged the Federal Government to support NCAA to engage more technical personnel.

He stated: “The Federal Government should assist NCAA to employ more technical personnel, even if it means engaging expatriates in the interim for a more effective oversight.

“This is very important so that everything must be done in order to maintain and improve on the current good safety record.”

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