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Cablegate: Nigeria: One Year Away From Category 1?

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

250558Z Aug 04





E.O. 12958: N/A

1.(SBU) Summary. Visits to Lagos by FAA Senior
Representative for Sub-Saharan Africa, Edward Jones,
and the Department of Homeland Security Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) Program Managers, David
K. Taylor and Ed Rao, again bring to the fore the
possibility of Category 1 status for Nigeria. In terms
of safety and security, Nigeria still has months of
work ahead to meet International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) and FAA requirements for Category 1
status and to fly a Nigerian carrier directly to the
US. End Summary.

2. (U) During an August 3rd visit to Nigeria, FAA
senior representative Jones and Nigerian Civil Aviation
Authority official (NCAA) discussed FAA and ICAO
recommendations that safety oversight responsibilities
be separated from the Ministry of Aviation (MOA) and
ceded to the NCAA. The current organizational
structure places the NCAA under the direct and close
financial control and authority of MOA. A requisite
step in Nigeria's progress towards Category 1 status is
the passage of a civil aviation bill that grants NCAA
significant autonomy from the MOA.

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3. (SBU) Jones reviewed a draft Nigerian civil aviation
bill that has been languishing in the National Assembly
for more than a year. He believes that, in its current
form, this draft bill does not provide NCAA sufficient
autonomy. (A copy of the draft has been forwarded to
FAA legal advisors who will provide an opinion on the
draft bill within the next few weeks.) Nigeria's
acceptance of these recommendations and the subsequent
passage of a new bill is likely to take time thus
drawing out the country's safety preparations for
Category 1. Besides the lengthy process of approving a
bill, MOA Isa Yuguda told Jones that the NCAA DG will
never gain budgetary separation from the MOA even if
aviation safety regulatory powers are ceded to NCAA.

4. (SBU) The NCAA assures Jones that Nigeria will be
ready for a Category 1 final review in October 2004.
Even with swift passage of a curative aviation bill,
Jones believes it will take somewhat longer primarily
because of low salaries for inspectors and the
resultant continuous turnover in personnel at this
position. (Comment: The timeline for safety
preparation for Category 1 is actually much longer if
we take into consideration the fact that current NCAA
aviation safety regulations will also have to be
reviewed to make sure they conform with the ICAO-
compliant civil aviation bill once and if it passes.)

5. (U) Security practices at Murtalla Mohammed
International Airport (MMIA) are gauged to be about one
year away from Category 1 compliance. After their
second visit to the Federal Airport Authority of
Nigeria (FAAN) in as many months, TSA officials Taylor
and Rao again left MMIA reporting deficiencies in
FAAN's progress towards ICAO standards. The TSA
officials will be distributing a report of their
findings. In a June conversation with Ambassador
Campbell, Taylor and Rao asserted that it would be
optimistic to say FAAN could be ready in one year's
time - even assuming no further bureaucratic
interferences and other stumbling blocks that have
plagued Category 1 preparation to date. And FAAN would
then require another 12 months of hand-holding by TSA
to ensure continued compliance.

6. (SBU) Comment: The combined safety and security
unpreparedness of Nigeria's civil aviation sector for
ICAO approval indicates that Nigeria is unlikely to
obtain Category 1 status within the next 365 days.
Conversations with FAA and TSA officials reveal that
Nigeria's aviation hurdles continue to be numerous and,
to a large degree, organizational. As a result,
Nigerians will have to rely on foreign flag carriers
for direct flights to the US for the foreseeable
future. End Comment.


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