US grants Nigeria direct flight permit

Nigeria has officially received the exclusive United States of America Category 1 air safety rating which allows direct flights  to Nigeria-US.Nigeria’s aviation minister, Fidelia Njeze, received the certification from outgoing US ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, yesterday at a brief ceremony in Abuja, making Nigeria the sixth African nation after Cape Verde, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, and South Africa to receive the status.

The rating is determined under the US Federal Aviation Administration’s assessment of how countries meet the International Civil Aviation Organization safety standards, and Nigeria’s certification is based on the results of July 2010 FAA review of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority.

The certification means Nigeria has complied with the safety regulations set by the international body, as assessed by the US aviation authorities, and Nigerian-registered flights have direct permits to the US. Such flights too would benefit from reduced premium charges and receive preference for leasing.

Ms. Njeze said the “covetous” status marks a “milestone” in the history of the nation’s aviation. “By this certification, Nigeria has been put in the premier league of aviation. We celebrate commitment today, we celebrate dedication, and celebrate success,” she said.

Nigeria’s aviation relations with the United States was seriously hurt after last December’s failed terrorist attack on the US by a Nigerian, Umar AbdulMutallab. In recent months, the NCAA director general, Harold Demuren, has assured of efforts the agency has made to secure the rating.

The US ambassador, Ms. Sanders, said the recognition was “hard fought and well-deserved” and praised Mr. Demuren, for the success.“This achievement is an important milestone for Nigeria and US bilateral relations. The US Mission, NCAA, and FAA have worked together as a team in the true spirit of bilateral partnership over the last two years to achieve this goal,” she said.

The International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) carried out by the FAA, offers the category 1 rating to countries with laws and regulations that can oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards for technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping, and inspection procedures.

Ms. Njeze, becoming the first aviation minister to achieve this, said “it was a long journey that had ended well.” However, she said “the journey has just started.”“I thank the American government for the confidence in Nigeria and assure them that we will maintain that.” She said the government will continue to upgrade the airports, personnel, and safety standards.

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