The President of Airport Council International (ACI) Africa and the Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Engineer Saleh Dunoma explains the readiness of FAAN on certification of Lagos airport and how important the process is to the industry in this interview.
Lagos airport is expected to be certified soon according to DG NCAA. What is the level of readiness of FAAN?
As far as FAAN is concerned, we are ready. We have been working on this for quite some time now and most of the open items have been closed. But you see, if we close it, we need to go back to NCAA so that they can come and confirm the closure.
What lessons are there to learn giving the resources that have been put into this exercise?
I am not looking at it from the angle of resources put into this exercise, but I am looking at it from the level of achievement in terms of safety. Certification is all about safety. We have by way of going through the process of certification achieved a lot of safety standards. Before this time, we had an assessment. NCAA did an assessment on all the safety issues at the airports. And then, ACI (Airport Council International) in conjunction with ICAO also did assessment. So, we combined the two assessments both the one done by ICAO/ACI and the one done by NCAA. We put them together so that we can address them. we have been addressing them and NCAA is supervising us to confirm whether those issues have been closed. So, as soon as we close them, NCAA will tell us if it is properly closed. If there are corrections, we will do the corrections. The assessment as far as we are concerned is the level of safety standard we have achieved, which is higher than what it used to be before the certification process. This is what is important to us. Resources, yes, we have put in some resources. Of course, there is no way you can achieve a level of safety without investing but what is important is the safety achievement.
You are talking about items closed. What are the items specifically?
There are so many items. If I remember rightly, there are over 100 items that we need to close. There are some of them, that have to do with procedures. Those ones are easy to close. There are some that have to do with documentation. For example, what we publish as FAAN as procedures or processes, when it is found. For example, if you say you have Category 9 fire service, you must make sure you have it at 9; in terms of equipment, number of people, in terms of your documentation and your processes. So, if there are gaps in that, you have to make sure you close them. There are so many of them in so many areas. On the airfield, that has to do with the airfield lightings and the runway itself, on personnel, documentation, training, and on maintenance. There are so many covering the entire aspect of airport operations. As we speak, there are only few of them that needed to be closed.
What are the challenges you are facing in the process of this certification?
The challenges at the beginning were resources. At the beginning, we thought we might not need much resources. But at the end of the day, after the assessment, we discovered that we have a lot to do. The only thing we needed to do was to make provisions in our budget that these are special fund to address the certification. Once we got the assessment and the fund provided, our engineers swung into action. The engineers came with the estimate of how some of the technical issues, some of the documentation and some of the new things we need to provide to make sure that we close the gaps. So, with the provision in our budget, there was no issue again. Budget was provided and everything is going smoothly and that is why we are at this stage.
For this certification to be taking place, it shows that there are items that were not in place looking at Lagos and Abuja airport. What were they?
Not that they were not in place. We have aircraft recovery equipment for example in place. We have it in Kano, we have it in Lagos. But these are things you do not use regularly. For a long time, we have not used them, because we do not have any need to use them and I pray that we will not have any need to use them. But we must make sure they are functional at all times. We were asked to keep that equipment in the fire station, it has to be tested regularly to make sure that it is functional. Before this time, it was not in the fire station. These are some of the observations that were made. Not that we did not have it.
DG NCAA said Lagos airport will be certified very soon. From your view as the operator of the airport, how soon can this be?
I cannot say how soon. As far as I am concern, we are getting ready and we will make sure that we comply with all standards giving to us by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. We have worked towards that, and it is left for them to look at what we have done and confirm that we have properly close all the items. Or we have not and then, they will tell us what to do in order to close it. They (NCAA) are to do the certification, we are to get ready. As far as we are concerned, we are ready.
Certification is important. We would not know that there are lot of things-little little things that we needed to do to make sure that we close all such items. Without the assessment, we would never know that there are open items. With certification, everything was looked into, including documentation, sometimes, a telephone number for example in the emergency contact telephone numbers. In case of emergency, may be one person has been transferred and the phone number has changed and his name has changed. Under normal circumstances, we would not bother. But with the certification, we must make sure that whoever is there is current. Certification is making sure that everything is current and checked on regular basis. It is not only getting the certificate but sustenance of the certificate is important. Yes, we have worked hard that we close the items, but we must sustain it. Also, what is important is the currency in terms of training of personnel. We must make sure that all personnel are properly trained. If you acquire an equipment for example, we must make sure that people that will operate the machine are trained on that particular machine. We cannot bring an experience from another machine to another, because they are different. There is always change in technology. We must change our operating procedure if there is a new model of a machine. And we must train the personnel so they are abreast with the new technology. NCAA will come and check all the changes from time to time. If NCAA finds out that there are so many things not done, they have the liberty to withdraw the certificate. We have to come up maintenance system with our runway, airfield lightings. It is adding another level to the maintenance and sustenance of all operations to what we used to have before now. It has added another level to the improvement of safety at the airport. It is also going to make the airport users, especially the airlines more comfortable. More comfortable in the sense that they know now that we have a standard that we must make sure we sustain. It will also go a long way in assuring the insurance companies that operator is doing a lot of things in line with what the regulator is say. It might even reduce insurance premium for the airline operators.