By Kenneth Ehigiator & Daniel Eteghe
AFTER almost three years of pursuit, Nigeria yesterday attained US Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, Category 1 certification, which the American government described as a major milestone for the country.
With this certification, the highest in aviation safety standards, Nigeria becomes the 6th African country after Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa to attain the certification.
The implication of the certification is that Nigerian registered aircraft can now fly direct into US destinations without any inhibitions, aside from the fact that any Nigerian airline can now also fly direct into the United States, considering the open skies agreement between Nigeria and the US.
Speaking at the issuance of the certificate in Abuja yesterday, outgoing US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Robin Renee Sanders, described the certification as a gift for Nigeria to commemorate her 50th independence anniversary.
Sanders, who noted that it was wonderful for Nigeria to attain the much-elusive certification, said it would boost the confidence of the international community on the nationâ€™s aviation sector.
She said achieving Category 1 by Nigeria was an indication that the country could guarantee the highest safety standards in global aviation system.
â€œAviation safety is really the order of the day and every country needs to live up to international safety standards. The NCAA and FAA having been working together for over two years to achieve this for Nigeria; it is wonderful,â€ Sanders said.
Sanders particularly lauded Nigeria for achieving the certification within three years, as Category 1 status usually takes a minimum of five years to attain.
In her remarks, elated Aviation Minister, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, said the certification would boost foreign investments in the country, especially in the aviation sector.
According to her, Category 1 certification will enable Nigeria easily position herself as an aviation hub in West Africa.
Njeze said the resolve of the Federal Government was to ensure that the certification was sustained, especially as Mexico just lost hers to some identifiable pitfalls in its regulatory capacity.
She also commended Arik Air for being the first Nigerian carrier to be issued a new Air Operatorâ€™s Certificate in line with Category 1 certification.