The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Shuaibu Nuhu has declared that the Authority is not out to kill any airlines but to fulfil its mandate of ensuring compliance with extant Regulations.
Capt. Musa made this assertion when the executive members of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) led by its chairman, Mr. Olusegun Koiki paid him a courtesy visit at the Aviation House recently.
According to him, aircraft safety and their operations is the Authority's number one priority and do not deals directly with individuals or owners of aircraft. “I do not see the personality. I deal with safety of operations whether it is Mr. President that is on the aircraft or whether it is an almajiri on the aircraft. I do not see who is in the aircraft; what I see is the safety on the aircraft. I only care about safety of the aircraft and nothing more," he said.
Shedding more light on the incident involving Azman Air and the perception that NCAA was very slow in acting, the NCAA helmsman affirmed that safe operation is of utmost importance to the Authority. However, “before we take action relating to sanction, there must be evidence; we must have the trend (see what is happening); we do a risk-based analysis and we decide to take action. This is because grounding an airline has serious repercussions, both on the availability of services to the public and also to the finances and reputation of the airline. I think we were slow but when we reached the point to act, we acted. Imposing sanctions on airlines is not a punitive measure. It is NCAA's responsibility and duty to guide, work and assist operator in ensuring compliance with our Regulations."
He however expressed satisfaction over the airline's (Azman) positive response to the Corrective Action Plan (CAP) which is consequent upon the safety audit and the resultant findings. According to the DG, “the response from Azman towards closing every open item in the last couple of times is very encouraging and very positive. They are taking our advice; now they understand and it is even better for them as it will help them improve their business model and I have seen a shift. I can guarantee you by the time Azman fully complies; the public will see a different Azman." That is the whole purpose. NCAA is not here to kill or ruin any airlines but to help them, guide them to operate safely, efficiently and effectively to provide necessary services to the travelling public."
Conversely, the NCAA too has learnt from the Azman Air incident and would make amends in some areas where there are deficiencies with a view to improving on them. According to Capt. Musa, NCAA is an organisation in transition. NCAA is striving to make few changes which will make the organisation oversight responsibility more efficient and more effective. While admitting that NCAA has had issues with some operators, “we sat and resolved them without anyone knowing.
However, he cautioned against releasing to the public statements capable of impugning the credibility of not just an organisation (in this instance NCAA) but also Nigeria as a whole. “It is Nigeria's reputation that is invariably being damaged on the international space. If NCAA is somehow perceived as a corrupt organisation, it means all the operators, all the aviation businesses will find it difficult to charter aircraft and it makes the whole business much more difficult for us; it damages the industry. That is why we had to come out and tell the world. This is not a vendetta and has nothing to do with Azman Air. There is ample evidence that accident chain is forming; somebody has to take an axe and break that chain. And that is exactly what we did."
“Safety is the paramount consideration in all approvals given by the NCAA. Therefore, we must not sacrifice safety for flights no matter what; that is the whole idea. There has not been any airline accident in the civil aviation space in the last 8 years and God forbid, it will not happen during my tenure. This safety record must be sustained and by His grace we will stop at nothing towards ensuring it is not truncated. We are not only committed to preventing accidents but also to the numbers of incidents too. We want to bring it down to make the system much safer. When you have little or no incident, you use your equipment much more. Instead of the airlines grounding because they have incidents, they will do more flights and the system becomes more efficient and more effective to the benefits of the travelling public."
Speaking on the relationship between NCAA and Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), the DG said the two bodies enjoy healthy and collaborative working relationship. More particularly so that as it is even required by the Regulations that they must work hand-in-hand. According to him, “when there is an incident, AIB goes there to investigate the extent/degree. If it is a serious incident and/or accident, AIB deals with it but if it is not, they hand it over to NCAA. Regarding Air Peace's tyre incident, AIB did its investigation and agreed to hand it over to us in order to work with the airline towards ensuring it is put back in airworthiness condition before it can fly. That is our responsibility. I can tell you for a fact that AIB is happy to have handed it over to us upon review and was never under any duress whatsoever as being perceived."