Reflection on Nigeria’s poor ICAO audit performance

It is no longer news that Nigeria did not do well in the recent International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) assessment. The country through the NCAA has an opportunity to close the yawning gaps identified by the ICAO team. The audit has shown where we are as a country, writes, WOLE SHADARE

Talking points

The recent audit of Nigeria’s aviation industry by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Safety Audit Program Continuous Monitoring Approach (USOAP)- CMA may have come and gone but it left in its wake so many points to talk about. The country for the first time in many years since the audit started has never gone below the 75% score mark.

The country performed poorly by scoring 70% in the audit leading many to categorise the performance as not only disheartening but a ‘failure’.

While many shared the view that the performance was a failure and a sad commentary to the level to which aviation had sunk in Nigeria in the past few years, others conveniently and in order to defend a badly run aviation industry in the country occasioned by interference, policy summersault, and infrastructure decay would rather say there is no ‘failure or pass’ in the ICAO audit.

NCAA DG, Capt. Musa Nuhu

Others have looked them in the face to tell them that a situation where a child failed to get a pass mark in any examination amounts to ‘failure’.

Report breakdown

The breakdown of the audit reports in Effective Implementation (EI) showed that Nigeria CAA in Legislation scored 90%, a reduction from the 95% it scored in the last audit while it scored 83% in Organisation compared to its 100 percent score in the last dispensation.

Under Personnel Licencing the NCAA scored 84% while it scored 62% in operations compared to its last score of 57%.

For Airworthiness the NCAA scored 94% compared to its previous 90% in the last audit while the audit for Accident Investigation got a resounding 89%, five points up from its previous 84% score.

In the area of Aerodrome and Ground Aids, the country scored 56% while for Air Navigation Services it scored 44%.

There are eight critical elements to an effective State aviation security oversight system. These encompass the whole spectrum of civil aviation security activities.

The critical elements and their associated components are CE-1: Aviation Security Legislation, CE-2: Aviation Security Programmes and Regulations, CE-3: State Appropriate Authority for Aviation Security and its Responsibilities, Personnel Qualifications and Training (This encompasses the establishment of minimum knowledge and experience requirements for technical personnel performing State aviation security oversight and regulatory functions, provision of appropriate training to such personnel to maintain and enhance their competence (including initial, on-the-job and recurrent training, requirements for and provision of training to the aviation industry on the implementation of applicable aviation security requirements),  CE-5: Provision of Technical Guidance, Tools and Security Critical Information, CE-6 Certification and Approval Obligations, CE-7: Quality Control Obligations and CE-8: Resolution of Security Concerns.

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Not doom and gloom

For emphasis, two agencies that serve as regulators, the NCAA and the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) were audited. The NSIB performed excellently well, pointing to a very robust oversight by the management of the agency which was originally the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) before now.

While it is not all doom and gloom, the aviation regulatory body still has ample time to close some yawning gaps identified by the ICAO team which was displeased about the retrogression in some areas of the country’s aviation industry.

DG NCAA, Capt Musa Nuhu

ICAO listed State Corrective Action Plans (CAPs). It advised that upon receipt of the draft report, the State may start to prepare the Corrective Action Plans but upload them onto the OLF (Online Framework only after receipt of the final report.

All points of findings are addressed, including associated implementation; CAPs include sufficient details to enable effective resolution of findings.

Corrective action plan

In other words, the gaps found in the audit ought to be corrected by the state (NCAA) and those gaps have been identified and realistic time for the implementation of the gaps provided in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term, creating enough time for NCAA to fully close the gaps.

One of the undoing of the NCAA that seriously its rating in the last audit was in the area of recruitment of very sound technical personnel to main critical directorates in the agency.

Just like in many agencies across the aviation spectrum, the lack of competent and technical staff in the critical areas of the aviation agencies affected the ratings and certification of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

Many of the important directorates are people who had left the system after mandatory 35 years of service and who had found themselves in other fields of endeavours after retirement, only to be brought back to the agencies without allowing for career progression by successive Ministers of Aviation. The truth is that most person that had retired after 35 years of service is assumed to have given their best and may just accept their new position for rehabilitation purposes.

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The aviation regulatory body is expected to begin proper recruitment from the universities of aviation enthusiasts and groom them with a view to taking over from the aging workforce.

The number of technical personnel to man critical areas as one of the requirements for the ICAO audit was glaringly lacking and only a few would deceive itself that all was in order before the ICAO audit.

Private jets on airport tarmac

In truth, Nigeria was not ready for the audit and everything pointed in that direction in what looked like a hurried arrangement just to put up ‘something’ and try to see if the country could hoodwink the team to granting the nation a more favourable score.

The number of experienced people is fast diminishing as many are leaving the NCAA for airlines that offer much more remuneration than what the aviation agency is offering to inspectors or directors.

Chief Executive Officer of West Link Airlines, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia said, “Aviation is for trained professionals, supported by 10% support staff, which are the typist, secretary, media people, and so on. It is only people who have business in aviation that should be there.”

One other area that put the NCAA in the spotlight is the area of training. A former Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Usman Muhtar could be held responsible for how training which is one of the requirements for the last audit and one of the Critical Elements (CE) set the country back.

Muhtar had domesticated many of the overseas training which led to bad blood between him, his directors, and his staff. The former NCAA DG considered overseas training which was introduced by a former DG of the NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren as sheer waste of resources.

In truth, Muhtar saved a lot of money for the agency, but this action of his caught up with the agency and the country in general.

Experts’ views

Speaking on the result, the rector, of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria Alkali, Modibbo, said the 70% score was not a pass mark for the country by ICAO’s standard.

According to him, “75% is the minimum and in aviation, any score below 75% is a fail.”

“The 70% that we got is not a pass mark by ICAO and aviation standards. Since we started flying, 75% is the minimum and in aviation, anything below 75% is a fail. I was there at the briefing. Everybody took it in good faith; the ministry, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), NCAT, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and others, we took it in good faith.


“Audit is not a witch hunt, but to help you put things right. The director-general of the NCAA and the permanent secretary were happy with what they even got because most of the problems we have are the implementation of policies that we have on the ground. Our policies are very good, but implementation of the policies is what we lack, but NCAA has woken up for the corrective action plans,” he said.

The former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Capt John Ojikutu (Rtd.) said, “The score is the least pass. It’s like a third-class or ordinary pass in the university. In Aviation, it connotes a number of safety or security open gaps that must be closed within a definite period and the auditors would need to return to verify that the gaps have been closed.

The Director-General of NCAA, Capt Musa Nuhu admitted that the country was audited and got 70% which he said is below the global average.

“We met the authority and the industry in a very difficult time, and I keep saying this, what we are doing, we are not developing the system for the sake of passing an audit. We are developing the system for sustainability, to function the way it is supposed to function, audit or no audit.”

“So, in ICAO, there is no pass or fail. There is a target, if you don’t get the target, ICAO will send you a report with the protocol questions. And you use that, they give you three months to develop an action plan and close some of those gaps and send it back to them. There are a couple of areas we didn’t do very well in Nigeria and one of the areas is the certification of airports.”

Last line

While Nigeria may not have done well in this audit, there is still the opportunity to close the noticeable gaps within the period allowed for them to do that. The NCAA through Nuhu has all it takes to re-write the story. All is not lost yet!

Wole Shadare