24th August, 2010
The US Federal Aviation Administration(FAA), yesterday, granted Nigeria its top safety rating which allows Nigerian airlinesÂ to fly directly to the United States.
The decision to grant Nigeria category one safety status was based on a July safety audit by the FAA authorities.
The rating, however, comes even as body scanners installed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), in Ikeja Lagos, South West Nigeria, are still unused, eigth months after a Nigerian allegedly attempted to bring down a US plane in Detroit, United States.
By the rating,Nigeria becomes only the sixth African country to fly directly to the US.
Other African countries already flying to the US include South Africa, Egypt, Cape Verde, Ethiopia and Morocco.
The category one safety rating took several years forÂ theÂ Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA) to attain as dozens of safety
conditions had to be complied with.
Last year, Arik Air had to register its aircraft in Europe to be able to fly to John F. Kennedy international airport in New York from Lagos with foreign crew members on board.
Outgoing US Ambassador to Nogeria, Ms Robin Sanders, who handed over the category 1 safetyÂ certificate to NCAA Director General, Dr. Harold Demuren, yesterday, explained that with the new safety rating, Nigeria’s registered aircraft will be able to operate direct flights between the US and Nigeria without safety hinderance.
Sanders, however, warned that the rating could be lost if not sustained with constant implementation of the highest safety
Sanders urged Nigeria to maintainÂ hundred per cent full body search at all airports in addition to its efforts at acquiring three
dimensional full image body scanners.
She said that the achievement of category one is an important milestone for Nigeria and US bilateral relationship.
Demuren expressed gratitude to the US government for all its contributions to the positive conclusion of the long journey that started a few years ago.
Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Mrs Fidelia Njeze, listed the benefits to include reduced costs on aircraft insurance premium, better and easier access on aircraft leasing from aircraft manufacturers as well as foriegn investment inflow into Nigeria.
Njeze assured that Nigeria will do everything possible to sustain the safety rating.
The US placed a six-year ban on direct fligjts from MMIA in the 1990s over safety concerns.
Today, passengers still encounter officials at the airports who solicit bribes and baggage handlers still rummage luggage for