Efforts are being stepped up to improve safety in Nigeria’s aviation industry. By Rosemary Udoh, Lagos
WITH SAFETY IN the air a No.1 priority, stakeholders in the aviation sector met recently in Lagos to review regulations in the light of air accidents and incidents, as proposed by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB). The two-day forum, which ran from April 4-5, was attended by a number of aviation experts and agencies, including the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET).
Tunde Fagbemi, managing director of leading Nigerian aviation firm Spring Fountain, said that, by necessity, the aviation industry was the most regulated in the world. “Why do we need to regulate? It’s unfortunate, but Ethiopian Airlines knows the need for regulation; Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier know why aviation needs to be regulated,” he said, referring to the tragic accident suffered by the Ethiopian airline in March when 157 people on board were killed.
“An accident is not what needs to happen, but it is something that we need to prevent. An accident is a culmination of many little events that were ignored and the most fundamental objective of AIB is safety and issuing safety recommendations for the betterment of the industry, ” he said.
For this reason, he believes that the improved reporting system to AIB is critical for aviation both for aviation safety and for the development of the aviation industry, especially in terms of boosting the consumer confidence, which in turn would lead to the desired increase in passenger traffic.
“There is usually a drop in passenger traffic after an airplane crash. In cases where the AIB report was quickly released, the passenger traffic shot back up,” he pointed out.
Analysing the AIB’s raft of recommendations, NCAA director-general, Muhtah Shaibu Usman, said: “The safety recommendations that the AIB has implemented, have assisted in improving our processes, led to the development of new and amendment of existing procedures, amendment of regulatory requirements and overall the strengthening of our safety oversight obligations.”
According to him, the NCAA is progressively ensuring the implementation of its responsibilities with respect to enforcing compliance by relevant stakeholders. The current procedures to ensure that this happens include the distribution of the safety recommendations to the appropriate technical directorates with oversight responsibilities. Each body has to demonstrate that it is carrying out the recommendations by providing evidence to the NCAA. These accident and incident investigation reports form a major input into the NCAA’s Safety Oversight System as required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s new State Safety Programme.
Last year, Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation, inaugurated the AIB safety recommendation committee to collate all safety recommendations issued since the establishment of the AIB; determine the status and effectiveness of all safety recommendations issued since inception; give an opinion and/or make necessary recommendations on the assessment made. NewsAfrica was told that 29 of the 33 safety recommendations that were issued to the NCAA had been fully implemented. .
Recently, the NCAA forwarded the status of implementation of the three outstanding safety recommendations to the Committee. The NCAA’s Usman said: “The NCAA is willing and ready to cooperate and continuously improve the existing partnership with the Bureau to ensure safe skies within Nigeria.”
Akin Olateru, commissioner and chief executive officer of AIB, said the amendment was to meet global standards, and the stakeholders’ input would be of great importance. He, however, stated that it was also important to use the forum to update industry stakeholders on the changes the AIB has made so far in upgrading its investigating facilities.
According to Olateru, there is always room for AIB’s regulations to be improved. In the past two years the Bureau has focused on improving its investigation processes. This has led to the release of outstanding reports and contemporaneous reports of recent occurrences.
The commissioner also spoke about the Bureau’s recent upgrade in its website to enable a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate.
He also said the Bureau recently launched an AIB mobile application to ease the process of reporting accidents and incidents and enhance eyewitness reports. Furthermore, there is the command centre where staff can respond to enquires around the clock and there are facilities to monitor and communicate with all flights in the Nigeria airspace.
The Bureau has also trained first responders, including from the Nigeria Police Force and Federal Road Safety Commission on air disasters management. The use of drones have also been introduced to assist in investigations.
With greater attention being given to safety, the AIB commissioner made a duty call on all stakeholders to contribute towards the safety of the Nigeria airspace and ensure that everyone worked as a team to achieve this common goal.