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INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS RESUMPTION: NIGERIA COMMENCES PREPARATION OF PROTOCOLS

Nigeria has commenced work on the protocols for a safe resumption of international flight operations in order to get it ready for when it becomes possible and appropriate.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu disclosed this at Tuesday’s aviation stakeholders webinar he convened ahead of Wednesday’s resumption of domestic flights across the country.

Reacting to a comment in respect of the commencement of international flights, said that it will ‘start when it will start‘, noting that ongoing preparations were strictly on local flights, as protocols for international flight operations are significantly different from those of domestic flights.

He noted also that even if international flights open, it doesnt make sense as nobody is coming in and nobody is going out.

Capt Musa Nuhu
DG, NCAA

He called the attention of participants to the fact that Nigeria wasn’t among the countries whose citizens were allowed to fly into European countries at the moment, so any talk about reopening international airports at the moment is preposterous.

On the level of preparedness and plans that have been put in place to ensure hitch free flights in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols, it was disclosed that airlines are 94.44% prepared; Domestic airports are 87 %; Ground Handlers 75%; Aviation Security >75%; while Air Traffic Organisations(ATOs) and Approved Maintenance Organisations(AMOs) are both above average.

Speaking further, Nuhu noted that the NCAA will do its best to control the crowds at the terminals especially the Lagos airport, and urged airlines to provide their schedule to NAMA to avoid delays in landing.

On plans to enfore COVID-19 guidelines inside the aircraft cabin, he said that it is the duty of the airlines, as NCAA is only there to monitor.

“One can be denied entry into the the airport terminal or ejected from the flight and so on, we will monitor and anywhere we see gaps, we will take actions. NCAA will not accept impunity and disregard for regulations. It is a collective responsibility and everybody must stand up and play their roles , NCAA cannot do everyone’s job”.

“A lot of people are watching Nigeria’s effort ahead of this reopening and we did our work in-house. if we work as a team and get our acts together, we will take the industry to a greater height. There is a huge potential in the aviation industry but we need to wake up. Yes, NCAA is at the centre but we need to work together to ensure that Nigeria benefits from the potential in the industry”, he said.

Responding to a comment on flight delays, he noted that flight delays are inevitable, as no operator wants to delay flights, adding that they always work to minimize delays.

Addressing the issue of post COVID-19 usage of ICT, he said that NCAA will start leveraging on technology for its duties internally, before it will go trickle down to third parties. “We will change internal policy on technology and anybody that will want to do business will have to adapt. Hopefully, in two years, there will be significant changes in NCAA operations. It will be a paradigm shift from the way we do business”, he said.

In his presentation, the NCAA General Manager, Air Operators Certification and Surveillance, Engr. Godwin Balang noted that Air Navigation Service Provider, the Nigerian AirspaceManagementAgency (NAMA) The NCAA on his part, noted that the Authority will do its best to control the crowds at the terminals especially the Lagos airport, and urged airlines to provide their schedule to NAMA to avoid delays in landing.

Speaking on enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines inside the aircraft, he stated that it is the duty of the airlines, as NCAA is only there to monitor.

According to him, “One can be denied entry into the the airport terminal or ejected from the flight and so on, we will monitor and anywhere we see gaps, we will take actions. NCAA will not accept impunity and disregard for regulations. It is a collective responsibility and everybody must stand up and play their roles , NCAA cannot do everyone’s job.

“A lot of people are watching Nigeria’s effort ahead of this reopening and we did our work in-house. if we work as a team and get our acts together, we will take the industry to a greater height. There is a huge potential in the aviation industry but we need to wake up. Yes, NCAA is at the centre but we need to work together to ensure that Nigeria benefits from the potential in the industry”, he said.

Responding to a comment on flight delays, he noted that flight delays are inevitable, as no operator wants to delay a flight, adding that they work to minimize delays.

On the use of ICT post COVID-19, he said that NCAA will start leveraging on technology for its duties internally, before it will go trickle down to third parties. “We will change internal policy on technology and anybody that will want to do business will have to adapt. Hopefully, in two years, there will be significant changes in NCAA operations. It will be a paradigm shift from the way we do business”, he said.

Speaking on aviation industry preparedess, NCAA’s General Manager Air Operator Certification and Surveillance, Engr. Godwin Balang, noted that Air Navigation Service Provider the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency(NAMA) was 91% prepared in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port-Harcourt, Owerri and Uyo Airports; while the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) was 93% prepared at the six airports.

He disclosed that the average level of preparedness of the eight (8) scheduled operators namely; Aero Contractors ; Air Peace Limited; Arik Air Limited, Azman Air, Dana Airlines, Ibom Air, Max Air Limited, and Overland’s Airways Limited was 94.44%.

On Domestic Airports preparedness, he said that Lagos (MMIA GAT & MM2) are both 92.85%, Kano 89%, Port-Harcourt 85%, Abuja, 89%, Uyo 82% while Owerri is the weakest link with 78% readiness.

According to Balang, the idea of the protocols is to ensure safe travels, physically and health wise, and urged Nigerians to ensure that the processes which took a lot of efforts to develop, be put into practice.

“Airlines should be deliberate on how it will manage risk in this period, it should not be reactive but proactive. Risk assessment should be based on actual content and I implore all to use the guidelines as reality and put them into practice”.

“We should get our minds ready for the worst tomorrow, we have issued guidelines but we should go with the mind that it will be rowdy tomorrow so that we do our risk mitigation around that”, he said.

On his part, the Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Captain Fola Akinkuotu, revealed that the Agency wrote to all airlines to submit possible schedule but only Azman,Arik and Max Air responded, noting that the low response makes it difficult to plan on flight sequencing and frequency.

“We plan to discuss everything with FAAN to know how much space are in the departure and arrival terminal. We will ensure that nobody is disadvantaged, and if need be, we will draw straws on who goes first but we can’t make scientific decisions with the kind of data we have. NAMA can only work with airlines that have complied”, he remarked.

He assured that there will be no chaos Wednesday and it will be in the interest of the airlines to submit their schedule to ensure proper planning.

Speaking on the use of technology for NAMA’s operations going forward, he stated that the Agency intends to aggressively address the issues of dealing with some of the constraints they had in the past using technology.

“We are in the process of deploying on our clearance portal and to link our clients on a payment platform to reduce physical contact. We will leverage on technology as much as possible to make it easier for our clients to get services”, he ended.

In his contribution, the Managing Director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria(FAAN), Captain Rabiu Yadudu, noted that the Authority doesn’t intend to have its lounges filled up, adding that they are trying to maintain a capacity that will be 100 percent in the terminal.

“We are working to expand the Lagos airport, to fix issues there and we will ensure that there is no issues in Lagos”, he stated.

Captain Roy Ilegbodu, Managing Director, Arik Air while commending the efforts of the Aviation Minister and his team in preparing the airports and the airlines for the resumption, noted that COVID-19 has impacted the aviation industry on a scale it has not seen before, and urged everyone to remain prepared to continue to learn and adapt as they go.

In his contribution, Dr.Samson Fatokun- of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) noted that many nations were watching Nigeria to see how the country would fare with this reopening, adding that compliance of all stakeholders to protocols was important.

He restated IATA’s support to Nigeria to realize an error free industry restart and recovery from the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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