Stories by Louis Ibah

Nigerian air travelers, especially those coming into the country from Europe, America, Asia or even other African countries like South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, would readily admit to a feeling of disappointment each time they pass through any Nigerian airport. It is not just that the state of the infrastructure at the airports have remained poor, obsolete, and malfunctioning despite investments estimated at over $2.2billion spanning the last 10years, but the attitude of the security and para-military personnel such as Police, Customs, Immigration, NDLEA, and Quarantine at the airports have been anything but appalling.  To its credit,  the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has ensured the continuous upgrade of the safety and security processes at the Lagos and Abuja airports which had helped the country to acquire the prestigous Category One (Cat-1) Status that allows direct flight between Nigeria and the US. However, it is worrying that till date, no Nigerian airport has been able to scale through the more rigorous International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit. Put differently, none of Nigeria’s 22 airports operates with an ICAO certification.
“Nigeria has not been able to close the open items for the ICAO certification of the airports, which include airside safety and installation of landing aids like airfield lighting that enables flight land and take off at night or at low visibility, proper markings of the runways and the ramp and efficient security apparatuses at the airports,” a senior official of FAAN told Daily Sun.
The official who wouldn’t want to be named gave Daily Sun a recent 2016 passenger poll conducted in Africa by renowned research and marketing firm, Sleeping in Airports which also showed  no Nigerian airport to be among the best 10 airports in Africa.  The  survey, featured selected travellers including Nigerians who were privileged to pass through airports in Africa and they were to rank airports based on the following experiences: Comfort (rest zones & gate Seating); services, facilities and things to do;  food options; passenger facilitation; immigration, police, security and general customer service; as well as cleanliness.
Top 10 Best Airports in Africa
Below is a list of the Top 10 Best Airports in Africa as voted by travellers in the 2016 survey:
•Cape Town International Airport, South Africa
•Kigali International Airport, Rwanda.
•Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (Port Louis) International Airport, Mauritius.
•Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport, South Africa.
•Algiers Houari Boumediene International Airport, Algeria.
•Durban King Shaka International Airport, South Africa.
•Rabat-Sale International Airport, Morocco.
•Oujda Angads International Airport, Morocco.
•Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenya.
•Cairo International Airport, Egypt.
Nigeria’s low ranking
Daily Sun spoke to some passengers at the Lagos airport on what they think should be done to get Nigerian airports among the best in Africa and in the world.   “Is it not a shame to Nigeria that the Kigali Airport in Rwanda is ranked as second among the best 10 in Africa and we are no where to be found,” said a passenger who gave his name as Theodore Abba.
“I am a medical Professional and have worked in Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Britain. I fly a lot and can tell you aviation infrastructure in Nigeria remains one of the worst in the world. From the Lagos to Abuja, Calabar, Owerri, Enugu, Ilorin, Kano, Sokoto, Kadu­na, Ibadan, Port Harcourt airports, the state of infrastructure has not risen above what could be considered as “poor” and that’s the truth. It took the intervention of the Vice President to get toilets and conveyor belts to be working at the Lagos airport. We must change our ways,” he said.
“We have to be serious to do away with endless list of non-functional facilities inside the terminals including dilapidated structures, unpainted walls, poor air conditioning systems, no comprehensive flight in­formation display systems, absence of communication facilities to allow passengers access wi-fi and the internet, absence of comfortable and secured seats for passengers, poor toilets and other conveniences facilities,” he added.
Another passenger, Ngozi Alozie, who said she lives in Dubai,UAE said the key to getting Nigerian airports out of its present mess lies in investments in automation of most of the processes that deal with passengers and luggage as well as in the general cleanliness of airports in the country.
Other respondents pointed at the fact that there are still poor perimeter fences that allow just anyone access to the airports in Nigeria, leaking roofs, non-functional conveyor belts, no self-check-in facilities nor automated gates for security and passenger tracking, as well as the absence of air field lighting systems and other navigational facilities on the runways such that most airlines had to shut down during harmattan seasons and the absence of car parks, among others.
The lesson from Kigali
“Small but extraordinarily clean, quick services and no waste of time on paper work,” that’s what one survey respondent said about the Kigali airport. “Although the overall capacity of the airport for more passengers is limited,  Kigali International airport continues to serve travellers well. Passengers are pleased with how clean and modern the terminals are, and by how helpful staff can be.The airport itself is decently easy to navigate, and services like e-clearing can limit the time you spend in lineups ,” said another respondent to the Sleeping in Airport 2016 survey.
Experts estimate that an additional 20,000jobs can be created for Nigerians in the aviation sector if the airports are made to work at the optimal capacity. They have also said that the key to such vibrant airports lies in massive investments in infrastructure which given the ongoing recession in the country can only be achieved through a Public Private Partnership (PPP). Already the Federal Government has given some Executive Orders which had led to massive changes in the way security and airport officials handle passengers and luggage at the Lagos airport. This should be extended to the other airports.
The government is also pursing the concessioning of the airports as panacea to the infrastructure rot. One hopes the policy succeeds and that in the 2017 or 2018  Survey, a Nigerian airport would be ranked among the best 10 in Africa.

NAMA to train staff on safety management

As part of efforts to enhance safety of air navigation in the country, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is to embark on the training of various categories of its workforce on safety management, its Managing Director/CEO, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu has said.
Akinkuotu who stated this while signing the NAMA Commitment to Safety Management Policy, noted that safety management has become key in a highly sophisticated and dynamic industry such as aviation, stressing, “aviation has no room for I am sorry.”
“The training will dwell on areas such as Safety Audit of Air Traffic Services; Safety Oversight Management; Practical Preparation for International Civil Aviation Universal Safety Oversight Programme; and Air Traffic Management Safety Investigation and Analysis,” he said.
He said the training was targeted at equipping staff of the agency with the capacity and proficiency to investigate and analyze air traffic incidents with a view to mitigating or eliminating future occurrence. Akinkuotu disclosed that management of the agency was putting a machinery in motion to drastically reduce or eliminate air traffic control related incidents while maintaining zero tolerance for accidents in the nation’s airspace. Akinkuotu also charged top management staff of the agency to buy into the NAMA Safety Policy and also ensure that the message cascades down to the entire staff.
“Everything we do in NAMA, one way or the other impacts on safety. We must therefore focus not only on the obvious, but even the non-obvious things, and by this, every NAMA staff should key into the safety policy and also be passionate about it,” he said. The signing of NAMA Safety Policy by Capt. Akinkuotu is in compliance with the prescription of ICAO Document 9859 (Safety Management Manual) Annex 19 (Safety Management Systems) which requires that the Chief Executive Officer of an aviation service provider must sign a commitment to safety as the Accounting Executive for Safety Management Systems (SMS).

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Ethiopian Airlines bags African best airline award

Ethiopian Airlines (ET) has been named the African Airline of the Year’ Award for 2017 by a panel of jury at a ceremony held at the 26th Annual Air Finance Africa Conference and Exhibition in Johannesburg, South Africa. The award, which was the second won by the airline in a row, was presented to Ethiopian Airline in recognition of its continued rapid growth, increased profitability and its outstanding contribution to aviation development in Africa.
Announcing the award, African Aviation CEO, Mr Nick Fadugba, said the Ethiopian Airline beat the other carriers in the continent because, “in the past 12 months, Ethiopian Airlines had further expanded its route network, modernized its fleet, inaugurated three new aircraft maintenance hangars, as well as a new world-class in-flight catering facility and has strengthened its airline joint ventures in Africa. Ethiopian Airlines has achieved a record financial turnover and profitability in spite of various industry challenges,” he added.
While receiving the award the Acting Chief Financial Officer for Ethiopian Airlines,Mr Meseret Bitew, said, ‘’We are pleased to win the “African Airline of the Year Award for the second time in a row; a testimony of our commitment to serve our beloved continent Africa.”
“The commendable success of Ethiopian Airlines attributes to the visionary leadership of Ethiopian Airlines management and the hard work of thousands of our employees who work hard around the clock with unity of purpose. Mobility and air connectivity being the economic engine of growth and development, we shall continue to play vital roles in connecting African countries with their major trading partners around the world and realize an economically liberal Africa.”