Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has said retention of Category 1 Safety Status as a requirement of the United States of America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that allows Nigerian carriers gain entrance into the States was a milestone in the history of Nigeria’s aviation.

Receiving the certificate of retention on Monday at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, the minister lauded the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for singlehandedly undertaking the process for retention.

“I thank the DG (of NCAA) and his team for doing us proud to retain the category one certification which has been presented to me. The travelling public might not be aware of what is being done at the NCAA but we in aviation are aware of the feat.

“They will not see the amount of work that the NCAA does because it is not the physical infrastructure that they are used to seeing. Some are even thinking that the NCAA is the least important of the agencies. But that is so far from the truth, as the amount of work the NCAA puts in to ensure safety makes it the apex body,” said the minister.

According to him, some consultants approached him with requests that they wanted to do the audit for a fee. He said “I listened to them and was told they were pivotal to our achieving Cat 1, in 2010. After hearing them out, I called the DG NCAA and asked if we needed them and he said we could do it by ourselves.”

He added that what made it great was the fact that “we did it on our own without external help. The NCAA did not borrow funds from any sister agency. The entire expenditure for this was done in-house and that is good.”

Nigeria first achieved the CAT 1 safety status in 2010, sustained it in 2014, and still holds tight to it in 2018.

Reading through the official document that conferred the CAT 1 status on Nigeria as presented by FAA’s Administrator, Dan Elwell, the Director General of NCAA, Capt. Usman Muhtar, said details of the document certified that the country had scaled through the audit exercise for retention of CAT 1.

Other details revealed that the audit conducted on the nation’s aviation facilities by the United States’ FAA was without hitches. And a fresh certification from the FAA on the new status would be officially issued the country before the end of this month – March, 2018.

With the retention of safety status, Nigeria’s registered carriers will continue to fly directly to the United States of America, having scaled through the eight critical stages of FAA’s audit which include: legislation, regulations, organisations, technical staff, technical guidance tools, licensing, continuous surveillance and resolution of safety concerns.

Although some critics may wonder how the nation has retained its CAT 1 even in the face of recent safety and security issues of baggage theft and runway mishaps suffered by Dana Air, Air Peace and Med-View, the minister emphasized that it was a milestone earned at the right time.