Nigeria’s economy is one of the biggest on the continent, and like all other economic industries, the aviation industry is one of the most rewarding for investors. The growing demand for aviation services in Nigeria has encouraged many airlines to establish or plan to establish operations in Nigeria. However, this industry is faced with a lot of challenges ranging from regulatory, institutional, and structural challenges, the ability of operators in the industry to access financial facilities, and the ability of investors to repatriate funds, without any form of difficulty as well as underfunding of the industry. These challenges have also led to operating airlines to either limit operations in the country or completely stop operations.
With the continuous growth and challenges in the industry, the Nigerian aviation industry is expected to experience significant improvements in terms of development, infrastructure, safety, and security. In 2022, the industry experienced a lot of developments as it worked to overcome various challenges. A very notable development is the assent of the Civil Aviation Act, 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) noted that this development will help strengthen the power of NCAA as the primary regulatory agency in the Nigerian Aviation industry. The Act repeals the Civil Aviation Act, No. 6, 2006 and enacts the Civil Aviation Act, 2022 to establish an effective regulatory and institutional framework for the regulation of civil aviation in Nigeria with a view to promoting aviation safety and security, assuring that Nigeria’s obligations under international aviation agreements are carried out, and consolidating the law relating to civil aviation regulation in Nigeria.
Another noteworthy development in the Nigerian aviation industry in 2022 is Ethiopian Airways’ involvement in Nigerian Airways through the acquisition of a 49% interest in the airline. This announced collaboration has faced mixed reactions from stakeholders and critics. Some critics are of the opinion that Nigeria should have partnered with a carrier outside Africa. However, it should be emphasized that more partnerships like this will advance the continent’s growth and economic development, which is one of the major objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Dagmawit Moges, the Ethiopian Minister of Transport and Logistics describes this collaboration between the two highest populated African nations as a partnership that will impact greatly on the Aviation industry in the continent and intergovernmental relationships.
General Overview of Nigeria’s Aviation Laws and Regulators
- The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)
The Constitution is the apex law in Nigeria. Aviation-related issues were specified in Schedule II, Part I, item 3 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution. Therefore, “aviation including airports, safety of aircraft, and carriage of passengers and goods by air” indicates that the National Assembly in Abuja has the authority to consider aviation matters.
- Civil Aviation Act of 2020
The National assembly in line with the powers conferred on them by the 1999 constitution, enacted the Civil Aviation Act (the Aviation Act) 2020 as the principal law that regulates the aviation industry in Nigeria. The Act established the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as the autonomous body responsible for regulating the industry. Section 4 (3) enables the NCAA to be independent in the discharge of its duties and functions under the Act and for that purpose shall not, except as provided under this Act, take directives from any person or authority.
- Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations 2015 (NCAR 2015)
The NCAR 2015 contains Implementing Standards which provides detailed requirements that support the intent of the regulators in line with the Act. When it was initially published in 2006, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (NCAR) aimed to establish national standards in accordance with the Civil Aviation Act of 2006 and for standardized operational procedures, safety management and training system in conformity with Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) contained in the Annexes to the Chicago Convention. The NCAR was then updated in 2015 to incorporate the most recent ICAO amendments to the SARPs.
- Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria Act 1996 (FAAN Act)
The FAAN Act establishes the Federal Airport Authority (FAAN). As a statutory body, FAAN performs its functions according to the policy and guidelines provided by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Aviation.
Section 1 of the Act provides the functions of FAAN amongst other things to include,
- To ensure airport’s adequate services and facilities for the safe operation of flights and landing of passengers
- Provision of adequate conditions wherein passengers and goods may be carried by air and situation where aircraft may be used for other useful purposes
- To prohibit the carriage of goods which have been declared prohibited.
- To prohibit the launching of any structure which is considered dangerous to the safety navigation of air due to its high position.
- Compulsory provision of accommodation and other facilities for the effective handling of consumers and baggage
- To ensure there are sufficient personnel for effective security at all airports
- Nigeria Airspace Management Act 1999 (NAM Act)
Section 1 of the NAM Act establishes the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
In section 7, the functions of NAMA were provided to include the provision of air traffic services in Nigeria, provision of aerodromes in all major Nigerian airports, and generally secure the safety, efficiency and regularity of air navigation.
In addition to the assent of the Civil Aviation Act, 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari, Punch newspaper reports that the Nigerian Senate has passed a bill to amend the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Act and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency Bill 2022. However, there are currently no reports indicating that this has been assented. It is therefore clear that the National Assembly is working to eliminate all regulatory difficulties in the aviation industry.
With the Civil Aviation Act, 2022 taking effect, it can be said that Nigeria has the needed legal infrastructure required for the country’s aviation industry. However, there seems to be a gap in the reciprocity clauses in the Bilateral Air Services Agreement signed between Nigeria and several other nations on the global scene. As a result, there is a one-way flow of air operators in which international airlines travel into Nigeria, but not a lot of Nigerian airlines on the international scene.