ICAO audit: A setback foretold!

 

By Wole Shadare

Two audits by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) of the Nigerian aviation sector in one year show that the country has dropped the ball from the heights it attained years ago.

The outcome is not a surprise to many because of the inherent gaps in the sector which are very glaring.

Nigeria dropped a whopping 25% points after the recently conducted Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP) Continuous Monitoring Assessment (CMA) with a 71% score from the 95% score it had in 2015, signposting serious gaps in many areas of the industry.

The first audit of Nigeria in 2023 was conducted by the (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme where Nigeria scored 71% and for the first time in 15 years, the nation failed to scale the audit as 71% in aviation is considered as a failure. The pass mark in aviation is 75%.

Although ICAO audits are not punitive and do not mean that the country’s aviation is not safe, it is a pointer to the fact that there are yawning gaps that, if left unclosed for long, could lead to danger.

The March 2024 USAP-CMA also scored Nigeria 71.4%, which is not good enough for a strong aviation nation in Africa and globally.

Surprisingly, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania scored well above 80 per cent while Nigeria scored 71.04% in the last audit that lasted for two weeks and ended on March 22, 2024.

The objective of the USAP-CMA is to promote global aviation security through continuous auditing and monitoring of member states’ aviation security compliance and oversight capabilities by regularly and continuously obtaining and analyzing data on Member States’ aviation security performance, including the level of implementation of the critical elements of an aviation security oversight system and the degree of compliance with the standards of Annex 17-Security and the relevant security related standards of Annex 9-Facilitation, as well as associated procedures, guidance material, and security-related practices.

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Nigeria started dropping the ball since long time ago precisely since 2016 with shambolic appointments that left many in shock at how favouritism and nepotism crept into a critical sector like aviation in the area of appointment of people to man key areas of aviation directorates.

The appointment of people into critical positions without good knowledge of the roles they play is also a contributory factor as many of the agencies are littered with people who are not professionals and not well trained are areas that cause the decline in aviation security rating.

The USAP CMA covered areas such as Inflight Security (IFS), Passenger and Baggage Security (PAX), Acts of Unlawful Interference (AUI), Facilitation (FAL), Legislation (LEG), Training (TRG), Quality Control Function (QCF), Operations (OPS) and Cargo, Mail and Catering (CGO).

The last audit before the one in March this year was in 2015. Nigeria scored 96%, regarded as the highest in Africa, culminating in Nigeria receiving an award in 2019 from the ICAO Assembly.

One critical area that scored Nigeria low is the aviation regulatory body’s oversight of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), airlines and other stakeholders in the provision of guidance tools and others that were well below 50%.

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Other areas that the sector did not cover itself in glory were the area of qualification and training of Aviation Security (AVSEC), absence of critical information and quality control obligation.

The spokesman for the NCAA, Mr. Michael Achimugu had recently justified the reason the country’s aviation sector was rated 71.04 per cent by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, saying Keyamo, and Acting Director General of NCAA, Captain Chris Najomo corrected some inadequacies.

Achimugu said if those deficiencies had been left, Nigeria would have been rated 30 per cent when results were released.

It is not all doom and gloom for Nigeria as the NCAA was rated highly in the area of legislation just as a few people expressed reservation over the 71% scored in the latest audit, others made a case for the sector and NCAA because the protocols used in 2015 when Nigeria scored 96% has changed and expanded as the airport security standard had gone through a lot of changes.

There were quite new standards and some recommended practices. Experts said when the ICAO audit of 2015 was held, there were over five amendments which means there was quite a substantial change.

There were many protocol questions. For instance, in 2015, the protocols were over 300 now they are over 400-500 protocols.

According to an ICAO auditor, “It is not interesting to explain that Nigeria is now 71% even though we cannot compare the two audits. The reason why is that between the last one and now, the airport security standard has gone through a lot of changes. There were quite new standards and some recommended practices.

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When the ICAO audit of 2015 was held there were over five amendments which means there was quite a substantial change. Many new things are involved.”

That’s not enough to say we should be low. When you compare Nigeria to countries like Tanzania, Ghana did 85 per cent. Uganda did 81% percent. We can compare because these countries did a lot better.”

Recall that the audit programme started with four cycles. Nigeria was audited for the first time in 2004. At that time, the concentration of the audit was on airport security operations. Later the second layer audit started and a few years after that.

Nigeria was audited again in 2008 under the second cycle and that one was prerogative to know the capability of the industry in terms of inspection, and audit.

It was based on the critical elements. In 2015 the audit evolved again and it went to the Continuous Monitoring Assessment (CMA) which means auditing all the states physically like they had been doing.

 

It is hoped that the NCAA and indeed the whole aviation sector would rise in unison to close all the gaps noticed by the auditor to place Nigeria’s aviation industry where it rightly belongs by harnessing all the human potential that is scattered everywhere.

A situation where Ghana, Tanzania and Ugandan outperformed Nigeria should pose a serious concern to the handlers of the sector.

Wole Shadare

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