Capt. Muhtar Usman: Commitment To Improved Regulation In Nigeria – By Roland Ohaeri

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According to the 2018 Safety Report released by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Nigeria ranks among States with above 60% Effective Implementation of the critical safety elements under the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP).

Besides, Nigeria has renewed its Category 1 certificate of the United States, and continues to successfully renew this category 1.

Nigeria has continued to step up on safety performance and regulation, and is one of the States providing leadership and support to other African States in aviation safety improvement. Nigeria’s role in the region has been pivotal in boosting the pool of safety inspectors in the region. Nigeria’s civil aviation regulation shouldered by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has produced zero-accident over the last four year. And the Director General of the NCAA is optimistic that continuing with “zero accident in all air transport categories.”

The impressive safety performance of Nigeria is enhanced by support of the Nigerian government. . Muhtar Shuaibu Usman, says: “The Authority with the support of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Honourable Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has been strengthening our regulatory capability in all aspects of our operations.”

Nigeria’s huge population of about 200 million people, expansive landmass and vast business opportunities, added to the tremendous safety regulation make the country an attractive destination for major global airlines. While some of the airlines have multiple entry points – and Ethiopian Airlines has 5 – in Nigeria, these airlines assert that Nigeria is their major source of revenue in the region. About 84 countries have Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) with Nigeria.

With about 15 million annual passengers and about 30 foreign and 8 domestic airlines operating in Nigeria currently, there is strong optimism that these figures would increase considerably over the coming decade influenced mainly by the safety regulation in Nigeria which buoys public confidence. And Capt. Usman, whose enthusiasm in upholding safety standards is striking, has kept to his pledge of enhancing safety which he made on assumption of office in 2014.

“My administration would focus on safety, security and comfort in the conduct of flight operations in and out of Nigerian airspace. We will be guided by ICAO Annexes, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs) and other appropriate legislations and conventions in line with international standards,” he had emphasized.

From Investigation To Regulation

Capt. Usman was a former Commissioner of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), the body responsible for air accidents and incidents investigation and prevention in Nigeria, before moving over to head the CAA. It could be safe to say he wants to keep the AIB less busy, at least in terms of investigating accidents on Nigerian-registered aircraft, as he brings his wealth of experience of ‘what has gone wrong?’ to his present office. Strengthening safety is the best form of accident prevention.

Capt. Usman explains that his years of experience at the Accident Investigation Bureau prepared him for his current assignment. He says: “Accident investigation and safety regulation complement each other because they are all about safety. As an investigator you need to find out what went wrong, how it got to that stage and why; the end product is safety recommendation to avoid future occurrence of similar accidents. The recommendations are normally carried out by the Civil Aviation Authority for implementation. This is because the Accident Investigation Bureau as an Agency doesn’t have the power of implementation. I have seen the other side as an investigator now I am here to implement some of those recommendations.”

Remarkably, there have been notable decline of accidents and major incidents in the Nigerian airspace in the last five years owing to strict regulation which is a preventive device accidents. To enhance safety performance, NCAA has relied on maintenance of standard and recommended practices, monitoring of safety trends and indicators, implementation of targeted safety programmes and safety information sharing; well-trained aviation safety inspectors, making airlines adhere to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); proper scrutiny for applicants of Airline Operator Certificate (AOC), among others, which all fall under the regulatory responsibilities of the NCAA.

Forward Drive

Capt. Usman, who will like to be remembered for improving on what he met at the Authority and the civil aviation community in Nigeria, has led the NCAA to make some notable strides. Under his leadership, the NCAA unveiled State Safety Programme in line with ICAO prescriptions. Nigeria also attained Level Three (3) in the State Safety Programme (SSP) Implementation Process which means Nigeria is now in the same Level with the United States, United Kingdom etc. in Global Safety rating.

Nigeria is the first State in the African & Indian Ocean (AFI) Region to have more than one ICAO certified international airport. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs) was reviewed to be in tandem with the most current ICAO SARPs as contained in the Annexes to the Chicago convention. Weather minima in 18 airports have also been reviewed after some decades.

Furthermore, Nigeria has hosted a number of global events such as ICAO Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Symposium for Africa and Indian Ocean in July 2017; ICAO Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) Workshop and Seminar in August 2017; ICAO World Aviation Forum in November 2017, among others.

Nigeria has also signed the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) to enhanced interconnectivity on the African continent.

Also, for the third time, Nigeria retained the United States of America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category One Status, thus enabling Nigerian registered carriers to fly into the US, among other fringe benefits. The next FAA re-certification exercise is expected to come up by the year 2022, according to the CAA.

Training and retraining is also a major component of his regulatory oversight. In fact, some Staff of the Authority are now ICAO certified auditors who are invited by ICAO to join other experts to carry out audits of other countries.

How safe Capt. Muhtar Usman will make the Nigerian airspace would depend on his leadership dexterity to make operators imbibe the safety culture. Especially, airline operators, ground-handlers, airports and airspace management agency must get to the point of self-regulation in line with ICAO SARPs and NCAA regulations to make Capt. Usman’s herculean task easier. Lighter is the task, they say, when the toil is shared. Same goes for aviation safety in Nigeria.


Born on 5th December, 1956, in Zaria, Kaduna State, Northern Nigeria, Capt. Usman had his elementary education at Government Secondary Technical School, Soba and finished in 1972. In 1973, he proceeded to Government Technical College where he passed out in 1975 after obtaining Federal Craft Training Certificate.

He later proceeded to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, (NCAT), Zaria, and obtained a Diploma certificate in Aero Electronics and Telecommunication. Capt. Usman is an alumnus of Ott Aviation Training Centre, Miami USA; Oxford Air Training School, UK; PANAM Academy, Miami, USA; Cranfield University etc. He has also undergone many trainings internationally.

Capt. Usman had a stint at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, (NCAT), Zaria as a Flying Instructor and later at the defunct Nigeria Airways Ltd as a Fleet Captain’s Assistant.

Capt. Usman worked in Chanchangi Airlines Ltd as an Airline Captain and Safety Officer. He became the Director of Operations at the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and later the Commissioner of the Bureau in 2011. He was appointed the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in 2014.

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