The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) certified Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos on Monday, 38 years after it commenced flight operations.
According to the NCAA, the certification process began in 2006.
The Director-General of the NCAA, Muhtar Usman, presented the certificate to the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Saleh Dunoma, at the agency’s headquarters at the Lagos airport.
Mr. Usman said that the airport is the first to be certified in Nigeria, adding that Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja would be the next.
“The current drive towards the certification of Nigerian airports is very significant, not only as a requirement by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Nigerian Civil Aviation regulations, but even more importantly as one of the critical safety targets set by the Abuja Ministerial Declaration of July 2012 that mandated all African states certify their international airports,” Mr. Usman said.
“It is also interesting to note that certification is an enabler for the attainment of a regional hub, which Nigeria desires for Lagos and Abuja. Aerodrome certification is therefore an ICAO strategy for the standardization and harmonization of airport services, facilities and procedures, as well as ensuring uniformity in safety critical aerodrome elements, irrespective of differences in ownership and management of such aerodromes.”
Speaking at the event, Mr. Dunuma said the FAAN worked to ensure that the airport scaled the NCAA hurdle.
He emphasized that the certification did not only indicate that the airport was safer, but was also more efficient and profitable, stressing that staff morale has the tendency to increase due to enhancement of knowledge and competency.
However, one of the aviation security experts in Nigeria, who preferred to remain anonymous, expressed skepticism over the certification of the airport.
The source explained that according to the ICAO’s minimal standards, for any airport to be certified, it must have adequate maintenance and security programs in place.
“The issue is, are the airports ready for certification? I have heard that they might not be ready for certification. There are two issues that are very paramount to the certification exercise: we need to have an airport maintenance program and a security program.
“Even the runway, too, must have a maintenance program. I don’t know the NCAA checklist, but as someone who is watching from outside, I think FAAN has to have those two critical things on ground,” he said.
The security expert insisted that airport certification was not about terminal building, but the facilities installed at the airport, including navigational aides provided by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
“Looking from the point of view of NAMA, their navigational aides and other facilities, how far have they gone with them? The issue of airport certification is not just for FAAN alone, NAMA, too, has a role to play. Certification is not just about terminal building, but about safety and security,” the source said.
He also disclosed that such an airport earmarked for the exercise must be insured to the tune of $250 million, stressing that the Lagos airport did not have adequate insurance for certification.
“Are the international airports that would be certified insured? I think for the international airports, they should be insured to the tune of $250 million,” he said.
The source challenged the NCAA to make public the criteria used in giving Murtala Muhammed International Airport certification.