Nigerian carriers enhance safety as IOSA registered airline numbers grow

The International Air Transport Association has boosted its commitment to improving aviation safety not only in Nigeria but Africa.  With United Nigeria Airlines and Ibom getting IATA’s safety ratings recently including four others that are already IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) -certified and more on the line, the sector could witness enhanced safety, WOLE SHADARE writes

United Nigeria Airlines, Ibom Air join the fray

Two airlines, United Nigeria and Ibom Air are the two carriers that have joined the growing list of Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) IOSA registry. While Ibom Air received its IOSA certificate from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) penultimate week, that of United Nigeria Airlines was received with fanfare underscoring the huge importance of the IOSA certification.

After getting listed on the IOSA registry, United Nigeria Airlines said, in no distant time, it will commence regional and international flight operations.

Fleet of aircraft belonging to United Nigeria Airline

The Chief Operating Officer, of United Nigeria Airlines,  Osita Okonkwo stated this at the presentation of the IOSA award to the airline by the representatives of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), West and Central Africa, Dr Samson Fatokun, at the airline’s office in Lagos.

Okonkwo disclosed that the airline getting the IOSA certificate less than two years after it started operation, is one step towards the airline’s long-term objectives of going regional and international.

He further stated that being on the IOSA register was a necessary condition and requirement for going international, saying, the process was an eye-opener.

To him, “It was a serious process that opens up our eyes to many things and this is one step towards our long-term objectives because we have plans of going regional and international, and being on the IATA register is a necessary condition and requirement. We are happy and we definitely want you to watch this space as we made further announcements in weeks and months to come.

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“IOSA audit programme was a very serious one, and it opened our eyes to so many things. It’s a privileged and also a responsibility all put together and we manage to go through that and we became successful. We thank our team especially those that worked so many hours, days, and months to get us to where we are today. We also thank IATA and the audit team that came from different parts of the world.”

“When we started operation from day one, we made this part of our programs and our chairman said anything we need to do to be internationally recognised, to be in IATA register, we should do it within two years of our operations and I can tell you that we achieved that before two years of starting operations, however, it won’t have been easy without support from the stakeholders, regulators,” Okonkwo stated.

Also speaking, the IATA representative in West and Central Africa, Dr. Samson Fatokun, disclosed that United Airlines joined a list of a few airlines in the sub-region on IOSA’s registry.

Ibom Air

According to him, six airlines from Nigeria are on the IOSA register, thereby, making Nigeria the only country in Africa with the highest IOSA certificate.

He, however, advised the airline operator that maintaining the presence in the registry is tough and demanding as most airlines find it tough to maintain their status.

Fatokun said: “It’s a great opportunity for us at IATA to present the prestigious IOSA certificate to any airline because we know what it takes to achieve that feat and as you said, in less than two years of your operation, you are already at this level where you can be said to have adhered to the global safety standard at it best. That is a great achievement and we will like to congratulate you for achieving this and we also say congratulation to the team that worked.

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“It’s a good achievement but maintaining yourselves there is tougher and more demanding. we have airlines getting there and not being able to maintain their stay. We can’t expect anything less than this and you have done very well. IOSA is a means and an end to go to a higher level like IATA membership and a lot more.”

Fatokun, however, disclosed that the IOSA audit complements the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), safety audit and not to rival it.


Raising the bar

Safety is the prime example of what can be achieved with a consistent, global approach. The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) is the global standard for airline operational safety management. Over the decade since it was established, there is a clear trend that the aggregate safety performance of airlines on the registry is superior to those of airlines that are not on the registry. African airlines on the IOSA registry are performing in line with global averages.

Improving safety is the biggest issue on the African agenda, and global standards play a crucial role in this area. A few years ago, nearly half of the fatalities on Western-built jets occurred in Africa. This informed African governments including Nigeria’s decision to recognise the need to improve safety in the Abuja Declaration’s goal of reaching world-class safety levels by 2015.

Key elements of the Abuja declaration include the establishment of independent and sufficiently funded civil aviation authorities, implementation of effective and transparent safety oversight systems by all African states, completion of IOSA by all African carriers, implementation of accident prevention measures focused on runway safety and loss of control, implementation of flight data analysis and implementation of safety management systems by all service providers.

IOSA is a standard that is constantly evolving. By September 2015, IATA implemented enhanced IOSA which includes a component of constant quality management.

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It should be noted that the IOSA Safety Audit, the instrument for measuring safety among airlines of the world, is not criteria to end safety-related issues or prevent air accidents all over the world, but is an audit that helps airlines appreciate the importance of airlines operational safety procedures and following said safety procedures to run an efficient airline.



Over the last century, global standards transformed air travel from a high-risk adventure into a routine part of daily life. And when it comes to operational safety management, the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) is the gold standard. IOSA will not eliminate all accidents, as shown by the recent air disasters around the globe. The first airline was audited in 2006. In 2009 it became a condition of IATA membership. And the numbers on safety performance clearly show that airlines on the registry perform better.

But the overall safety record for Africa remains a problem that we must fix. African aviation—including non-IOSA carriers—accounts for about three percent of global airline traffic. And last year it accounted for nearly half of the fatalities on Western-built jets.

Last line

Private jets on airport tarmac

Africa is the second most populous continent and home to an estimated one-seventh of the world’s population. Yet it represents just three percent of global airline traffic. Other air markets have matured or are in the process of maturing; for Africa, the future of aviation is still being created. The message today is that IATA is keeping and defending global standards at the core of the amazing industry. Experts said there is no reason why the next 100 years of commercial aviation cannot become Africa’s century of flight.

Wole Shadare