The director of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority says his country is delighted by the U.S. decision to grant Nigerian airlines permission to fly directly to the United States.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Monday that Nigeria had met international air safety standards.
Harold Demuren, director of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, said the ?category one status? means Nigeria can use its own aircraft and crews to fly direct to the United States.
?Today is a great day for Nigeria. Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority obtained FAA category one certification, and because we have category one, it means we can fly direct with Nigerian-registered aircraft to America,? he said.
Demuren said the new U.S. certification is the result of Nigeria meeting all eight critical areas of inspection by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
He denied that Nigerian Airlines had not been able to fly direct to the United States for the past three years because it had been banned by the FAA for safety reasons.
?Nigerian airline has never been banned. I repeat that again, never been banned to come to the United States. What has happened is because Nigeria has not got category one, then a commercial flight cannot come. And, that?s all over the world. You have to have category one to fly direct,? he said.
Demuren said, since then, Nigeria has embarked up a robust safety reform program.
?We went through all our system. We carried out re-certification of our airline, re-certification of the aircraft and our personnel. So, Nigerian aviation has come of age. We have removed all old-aged aircraft and, in the last four years, we have not had a single accident. And, we want to keep that for the next 50 years,? Demuren said.
US Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Renee Sanders Monday praised Nigeria for achieving category one status, but she also said the country needed to do more to ensure the regular use of full-body scanners.
Body scanners were introduced after a Nigerian man was accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day (December 25) of last year with explosives hidden under his clothes.
Demuren said the Nigerian Aviation Authority has been using the body scanners.
?You must understand this. We used body scanners regularly at our airports. We are adding more. We?ve done more than what the United States has done. So our aviation safety and security have gone higher standard, and we are very proud that today Nigeria has joined the premier league of nations in aviation,? Demuren said.
Demuren said one Nigerian Airline, ARIK Air already flies to the United States using Portuguese-registered aircraft leased by the Nigerian government.
He said with the new U.S. safety rating, ARIK Air will be able to register their aircraft in Nigeria and fly direct from Lagos to the United States.