BY KENNETH EHIGIATOR
Ahead of the safety audit of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, concerns are high that inadequate inspectors in the agency may militate against its ability to retain the Category 1 certification achieved by the Federal Government about five years ago.
Safety inspectors, which come under human capital, is one of the critical elements the FAA would look at when its auditors come calling in two months.
Investigation revealed that the NCAA is currently faced with acute manpower shortage in the area of safety inspectors, to the extent that at present, there are not more than 10 inspectors covering all 22 federal government’s owned airports across the country, and this is exclusive of airports owned by states.
It was also gathered that much of that number is concentrated at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, though other airports play host to flight operations daily.
Vanguard learnt that management of the NCAA, conscious of this inadequacy, conducted an interview for cabin safety inspectors, aircraft captains and engineers last October, with a view to boosting the number of safety inspectors.
Vanguard, however, gathered that five months after the interview was conducted, the result is yet to be released and more inspectors engaged.
It was also gathered that this development remained one of the reasons the aviation authorities pleaded with the FAA to shift date for the audit to enable the regulatory agency put its house in order.
The audit, which was meant to have taken place in the last quarter of last year, is now to come up in the next two months.
Although there are eight critical elements FAA safety auditors would look at during the forthcoming audit, the issue of safety inspectors remains one of the most critical as inspectors are expected to be individuals who are very vast in their areas of calling, ranging from pilots, aircraft engineers to cabin officers and also very knowledgeable about aircraft operations.
Stakeholders’ concern is further heightened by the fact that India only recently lost its Category 1 certification and had its aviation sector downgraded to Category 2 after the last audit of its aviation industry by the FAA last month.
Efforts made to get the Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, to explain why the agency has yet to employ more safety inspectors proved abortive as call pulled through his mobile number was not received. This is beside the text message sent to his phone, which was also not replied to.
A similar message sent to the mobile phone of the agency’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Fan Ndubuoke, also yielded no response, after efforts made to speak with him failed.