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Civil aviation is a critical element in Nigeria's transportation system and indeed its economy. Nigeria has twenty (20) airports and many regulated airstrips and heliports; 23 active domestic airlines; 554 licensed pilots; 913 licensed engineers and 1700 cabin personnel. Nigeria being Africa's most populous country is an important destination for over 22 foreign carriers. Nigeria currently has Bilateral Air Services Agreements with over 78 countries.
From Nigeria, air travelers can fly directly to many of the world's business centers such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Johannesburg, Atlanta, Amsterdam, Dubai and Jeddah to mention a few. With the attainment of America's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Category One Certification, Nigerian registered carriers can now fly directly into the United States of America (USA). In recent years, domestic and overseas passenger traffic has risen steadily at an average of 10% per annum and Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos, the Nation's main gateway, accounting for over 60 per cent of the total passenger and aircraft movement. The consistent rise in passenger and aircraft has spun a thriving service industry, driven not just by private-sector profit motives but also by innovation and the strong desire to satisfy customers. The airport is being repositioned as a regional hub by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The effort of Government to reposition the airports in Nigeria is being complimented by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency which has made massive investments in the upgrade of Navigational facilities including new radar systems and modern landing aids. The Agency has well-trained personnel which includes 490 Air Traffic Controllers.
The Nigerian International airports, notably in Abuja, Calabar, Kano, Lagos and Port-Harcourt, are leading cargo centers. An important segment of the air transport sector, the air-freight business is kept alive by a combination of shippers, airlines, leading currier firms (such as UPS and DHL) and handling companies (such as NAHCO and SAHCOL). All the essential components in the sector, airlines, passengers, aircraft, crew, service providers are working in harmony to deliver a safe and economically sound air transport system that meets national and international standards.