Requirements and Procedure for Acquiring Aviation Licence under Nigerian Law by Foreign Airline Participation

Introduction

In Nigeria, the procedures for obtaining an aviation license under Nigerian law include adherence to the Aviation Act, which provides a legal foundation for the aviation industry.  Globalization has caused a paradigm shift in Nigeria’s aviation business, resulting in greater foreign airline participation and foreign direct investment, which has been aided by deregulation and liberalisation measures.

Nigeria has a free-market economy, and international investors are welcome to establish businesses in the country. A foreign individual or entity may establish a completely owned company in Nigeria, operate it, hire expatriates, and repatriate earnings, subject to Nigerian laws. However, before a foreigner can conduct business in Nigeria, the company must be properly registered in the country.

The Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 (CAMA) is the primary legislation governing company registration in Nigeria, and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) serves as the regulating authority. Aside from company registration, there are additional regulatory requirements that must be met before any company may legally conduct business in Nigeria.

A foreign national can acquire an aviation license in Nigeria. The process entails applying to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the appropriate license and submitting the relevant documentation such as passport copies, educational credentials, a medical certificate, and evidence of flying experience.

This article provides a comprehensive step-by-step guide to acquire aviation license.

Definition of Concept

Aircraft

Section 117 of Civil Aviation Act 2022 defines an aircraft as any machine that can derive support in the atmosphere from reactions of the air other than reactions of the air against the earth’s surface.

Licence

According to Civil Aviation Act 2022, licence includes air transport licence, air operators permit, air travelers organisers licence, air operators certificate, certificates of airworthiness, certificate of registration, personnel licences and ratings, aerodrome licence, aviation training organisations approvals or certificates, aircraft maintenance organisation approvals or certificates and all other authorisations and approvals issued under this Act.

Legal and Regulatory Framework of Aviation Industry

  1. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended): The Constitution is Nigeria’s supreme law. It places aviation subjects on an exclusive list, implying that only the National Assembly has the authority to regulate aviation in Nigeria. Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) grants the Federal High Court exclusive jurisdiction over all disputes concerning aviation and aircraft safety.
  1. Civil Aviation Act, 2022 (CAA): This Act is Nigeria’s primary law governing aviation. It established the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as the primary regulator of technical and safety issues in the aviation industry, assuring compliance with international standards specified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
  1. Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, 2023 (NCAR): The NCARs address a variety of aviation issues, including as aircraft registration, consumer protection, staff licensing, and airworthiness. It discusses safety management criteria aligned with ICAO standards.
  1. Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria Act, 1996 (FAAN Act): This Act created the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which is in charge of developing, providing, and maintaining airport services. It authorizes FAAN to maintain safe and orderly air transport operations and establishes security guidelines for airports.
  1. Nigeria Airspace Management Act, 1999 (NAM Act): The NAM Act created the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), which is in control of air traffic services and airspace management. It explains the tasks and responsibilities of NAMA in administering Nigeria’s airspace.
  1. Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA): This is Nigeria’s principal regulating authority for aviation. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was founded to address concerns such as aircraft registration and marking, consumer protection, staff licensing, and airworthiness.
  1. Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB): The CAA established the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to investigate aviation accidents and incidents in Nigeria. It plays an important role in assuring safety and compliance in the aviation business.

Procedure and Requirements for Registration of Aircraft

Part 4.2.1.1 of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation outlines the procedures and requirements for aircraft registration in Nigeria, which are as follows:

  • An applicant interested in registering an aircraft is required to apply to the relevant authority by submitting a duly completed application form-AC-AWS 001A or in a form and manner acceptable to the Authority.
  • Each application is required to comply with the eligibility requirements; it must also include evidence of ownership e.g. Bill of Sale and be signed in ink.
  • An applicant for aircraft registration is required to be eligible for the registration, and the eligibility requirements as backed by Section 33 of the Civil Aviation Act are as follows;
  • The aircraft must be owned by a citizen of Nigeria.
  • It is owned by an individual citizen of another State who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence in Nigeria or,
  • It is owned by a corporation lawfully organised and carrying on business under the laws of Nigeria and the aircraft is based and used primarily in Nigeria.
  • It is owned by a government entity of Nigeria or a political subdivision thereof.
  • It is owned by a foreign person who has leased the aircraft to one of the persons described above, provided that the aircraft remains on the Nigerian registry for as long as the lease subsist or the certificate of registration includes the names and address of the lessee and if different, the operator of the aircraft.
  • The aircraft is not registered under the lease of another State and the aircraft is not more than 22 years old unless the aircraft is used exclusively for general aviation purposes.
  • After the aircraft has been evaluated by the Authority and found acceptable for the issuance of a Certificate of Registration, it is required to comply with the following technical and legal requirements and submit the following documents;
  • Aircrafts technical specification which includes the followings;
  • The full description of the type, model, and serial number.
  • Type certificate datasheet.
  • Supplementary type certificate data if any.
  • Make and part numbers of avionics and equipment installed.
  • Airworthiness Directives (Ads) status report.
  • Copy of the current Certificate of Registration where applicable.
  • Copy of the current C of A where applicable.
  • A Certificate or notice of de-registration from the previous state of registry or a letter from the state of manufacture if the aircraft is new and has never been registered in any other state. The de-registration Certificate must be received by the Authority directly from the state of the registry and should never have been presented by the applicant.
  • A certified copy of an aircraft’s current insurance certificate.
  • A copy of Air Transport License (ATL), Air Operating Permit (AOP) or Permit for Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF) or Permit for Aerial Aviation Service (AAS).
  • Proof of payment of the prescribed fees.
  • A certified copy of the Certificate of Incorporation with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), if owned by a corporation.
  • A copy of a government-issued identity card (ID) or Passport if owned by an individual or any other means of identification approved by the Authority.
  • Honourable Minister of Aviation Permit to import and operate the aircraft.
  • The applicant is also required to comply with the additional requirements by submitting the following documents;
  • Documents to prove the aircraft ownership, for example, purchase agreement with stamp duties paid.
  • Names of the directors of the company owning or leasing the aircraft and their specimen signatures giving authority to register and or operate the aircraft in Nigeria and indicating who among them has the mandate to transact on their behalf on matters relating to the aircraft registration and operation.
  • A certified true copy of the lease agreement if the aircraft is on a lease, with stamp duties paid.
  • A certified true copy of the power of attorney from the owner/lessor and the lessee.
  • An indemnity in accordance with the Regulations.
  • Irrevocable Deregistration and Export Request Authorisation (IDERA) if applicable.
  • Upon the fulfillment of the above requirements, an evaluation will be carried out on the application to establish that the documents are authentic, genuine, valid, and relates to the subject aircraft. It will also be evaluated to ensure that the aircraft type Certificate complies with an acceptable airworthiness code (which means Civil Aviation Regulations and Standards of the contracting State of Design, relating to the design, materials, construction, equipment, performance, and maintenance of aircraft).
  • The aircraft that fails to meet the required standards and satisfy the acceptable Type Certificate requirements will be classified Non-Complaint and will not be accepted for registration in Nigeria.
  • On completion of a successful document evaluation, the airworthiness inspector will issue the aircraft acceptance for registration note.
  • The applicant will be allocated registration marks. The registration marks can be reserved after payment of the reservation fee; however, the reservation fee is only valid for six (6) months.
  • The applicant can also be allocated special registration marks of choice. These special marks are allocated on request in writing and they attract an extra fee in addition to the registration fee.
  • After the applicant meets all the statutory requirements for registration, a Certificate of Registration will be issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority as stated in Part 4.2.1.4.
  • The acceptance for registration is only for aircraft of a type that is acceptable to the Authority.

The Aviation Authority issued a Certificate of Registration that is valid for five (5) years and can be renewed.

Effect of Registration

Part 4.2.1.1 of the Regulations provides that no one may operate a civil aircraft under the laws of Nigeria unless it has been registered by its owner or operator under the laws of Nigeria and the Authority has issued a Certificate of Registration for that aircraft, which must be carried on board the aircraft for all operations.

The effect of registering and obtaining a Certificate of Registration for an aircraft is that, it allows the aircraft to operate in Nigeria.

Commercial Aircraft Operations in Nigeria

In Nigeria, businesses require incorporation, including the aviation sector. According to Section 32 of the Civil Aviation Act (“CAA” or “the Act”) 2022, no aircraft can be used for commercial operations without a license, permit, or authorization from the NCAA. Additionally, section 96 of the act provides to the effect that license will not be granted to applicants who are not Nigerian citizens or companies with a principal place of business in Nigeria. The Act’s provisions are backed by Paragraph 4.2.1.2 of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations 2023.

Foreign airlines intending to conduct scheduled services in Nigeria must be designated under the current Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) between its government and Nigeria. International air carriers designated to operate flights to and from Nigeria under a Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) are free from the obligation to form a distinct entity in Nigeria under section 80 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2020.

Previously, foreign companies had to apply to the President through the National Council of Ministers to be exempted from forming a distinct Nigerian company. However, CAMA 2020 enables a foreign company to submit an exemption application directly to the Minister of Trade.

After acquiring the exemption, the foreign air carrier must notify the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) within 30 days, or the company may be liable to a fine. Furthermore, if an exempted foreign company fails to submit an annual report to the CAC, it would be penalised for each year of default.

CAMA 2020’s alteration intends to make it easier for foreign airlines designated under a BASA to operate in Nigeria without the need to establish a separate Nigerian the company. It is part of the bigger reforms in CAMA 2020 to improve the ease of doing business and attract more foreign investment to Nigeria.

Part 10 of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations on “Commercial Air Transport by Foreign Air Carriers within Nigeria” must be met before the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) can issue the Foreign Carrier Operating Permit.

Permits and Licenses

To operate commercially in Nigeria, air operators must get permissions and licenses from the NCAA. The licenses are outlined and discussed below.

  1. Airline Operating Permit (AOP): An Airline Operating Permit allows an air operator to conduct non-scheduled flights, such as charter operations.
  1. Air Transport Licence (ATL): An air operator must get an Air Transport Licence before conducting air transportation operations. This allows the operator to offer passenger and freight aviation services in Nigeria. The ATL is valid for five years and can be renewed.
  1. Air Operator Certificate (AOC): The NCAA issues an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) to confirm that operators follow International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations and recommended practices. The validity period is two years and can be renewed for additional two-year durations.

Procedure and Requirements for Issuing an Air Transport Licence (Atl)

An application for an ATL must be submitted in writing to the Director-General of the NCAA and signed by a fully authorised representative of the applicant company. This application must be submitted on or before a date that is at least 6 months before the ATL’s projected use date.

The application must contain the following:

  • The name and address of the applicant.
  • The type of air services to be provided.
  • The proposed operational base of the applicant.
  • Details of proposed routes to be operated where applicable.
  • The number and types of aircraft to be utilised.
  • Times and frequency of the services.

The following documents must accompany the application.

  • 4 copies of the certificate of incorporation of the applicant company and its MEMART (Memorandum & Articles of Association).
  • Statutory Corporate forms showing particulars of the applicant company’s directors. The Aviation Act requires that at least one member of the board of directors be an aviation specialist. In addition, Nigeria will hold the majority of the shares in the applicant company.
  • 4 copies of the Tax Clearance Certificates of the company and its directors (originals should also be presented for sighting).
  • 4 copies of the applicant company’s business plan.
  • A publication of a notice of the ATL application in two (2) national daily papers which should contain information on the application submitted to the NCAA.
  • Evidence of the applicant’s financial solvency/ability to undertake the business. Applicants are expected to prove that they are financially solvent to run operations for a period of three (3) months from the start of operations without resorting to any income from their operations.
  • Duly completed application forms from the NCAA.
  • Duly completed Personal History Statement forms and two (2) passport photographs in respect of each of the shareholders of the company having more than 5% equity shareholding.
  • Proof of payment of a non-refundable processing fee of N1,000,000.00(One Million Naira) to the NCAA.
  • A publication in an official Government gazette with the costs to be borne by the applicant.

The following should be noted about ATL applications:

  • No person shall operate an airplane in Nigeria without a security clearance provided by the government when the NCAA forwards Personal History Statement forms and other applicable documents to the ministry in charge of security clearances. 
  • The applicant will be required to consult with Airport Service Providers or the FAAN regarding approval of its home or operations location.
  • Following receipt of an ATL application, the Director-General of the NCAA may seek additional information from the applicant as deemed essential.
  • An annual utilisation fee of N200,000.00 (two hundred thousand Naira) must be paid to the authorities after an ATL is granted.
  • The results of the technical review of the application, followed by an appropriate suggestion, will be forwarded to the ATLC for consideration and approval to grant a licence, subject to receiving security clearance from the Ministry.
  • The NCAA Director-General may refuse to award an ATL if the applicant has not yet been cleared by the State Security Service.
  • Every commercial air transportation service provider must offer adequate insurance coverage for passengers, cargo, and third parties.
  • The NCAA will regularly investigate the financial health of an air transport or airline operations company.
  • Tariffs to be charged for passenger and baggage carrying must be lodged with the authority and made available to the public before they are implemented for scheduled services. The NCAA’s Directorate of Air Transport Regulation should be contacted for further information.
  • ATL holders are obligated to forward to the NCAA:
  • Monthly statistical return on aircraft movement and passenger uplift.
  • Details about flight schedules and adjustments to frequencies and new destinations.
  • An applicant seeking to run regional and international scheduled services should receive and seek additional professional advice on the Honourable Minister’s approved guidelines and designation requirements. 
  • ATL grants that are not used after they expire will not be renewed.

Procedure and Requirements for Issuance of an Airline Operations Permit

The requirements for obtaining an Airline Operations Permit include:

An application for this sort of license must be presented in writing to the Director-General of the NCAA and signed by the applicant’s lawfully authorised representative (ideally a lawyer) and must be submitted on or before a date no less than 6 months before the estimated date of AOP utilization.

This application must include: –

  • The applicant’s name and address.
  • The type of service to be offered.
  • The number and type of aircraft to be used.
  • Applicant’s proposed operational base.

The following documents must accompany the application.

  • 4 copies of the applicant company’s certificate of incorporation, MEMART (Memorandum and Articles of Association), and Statutory forms identifying the company’s directors and their contact information. At least one board member must be an aviation specialist, and Nigerians must own the majority of the company’s shares.
  • A statement of the company’s share capital.
  • 4 copies of the company’s and directors’ tax clearance certificates (originals available for sighting).
  • 4 copies of the company’s detailed business plan indicating its vision, mission, market analysis and strategy, company’s ownership structure, personnel plan, fleet acquisition plan, financial plan including sources of finance, balance sheet, break-even analysis, pro forma income projections (profit and loss statements), cash flow analysis, proposed fares for passengers or cargo, and other standard business plan requirements showing a detailed road map of how the application.
  • The Air Operating Permit application notice published in two (2) national daily newspapers. This publication should include material from the application submitted to the NCAA.
  • Evidence demonstrating the applicant’s financial solvency and ability to conduct the business. Applicants must demonstrate that they are solvent enough to run activities for three months from the start date without relying on any income from their operations.
  • Completed application forms obtained from the NCAA.
  • Completed Personal History Statement (PHS) forms and two (2) passport photographs for each of the company’s stockholders who own more than 5% of the shares.
  • Receipt of payment of N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) non-refundable processing fee payable to the NCAA.
  • Evidence of appropriate insurance cover for passengers, cargo, and third-party liability.

The NCAA will publish the application in the official government gazette while it is being evaluated technically. The expense of this publication will be borne by the applicant. 

A security clearance through the NCAA, which forwards the applicant’s completed Personal History Statement forms and other essential papers to the ministry in charge of aviation in order to obtain security clearance from the president.

The applicant will need to communicate with airport service providers or the FAAN about the approval of its home or operational base.

It is important to note the following:

  • Upon receipt of an AOP award, the NCAA will be charged an annual use fee of N100,000.00
  • After receiving an AOP application, the Director-General of the NCAA may seek additional information from the applicant as considered necessary.
  • As soon as the ministry provides security clearance or consent, the results of the technical evaluation of the application, along with an appropriate recommendation, will be forwarded to the Air Transport Licensing Committee (ATLC) for consideration and approval to issue the AOP or otherwise.
  • If the applicant has not been cleared by the State Security Service, the Director-General shall refuse to award a permit.
  • An AOP grant that is not used at the end of its validity period will not be renewed.
  • AOP holders are also expected to provide the NCAA with monthly statistical returns on aircraft movements, cargo, and passenger uplift.

Procedures and Requirement for Issuing Air Operator Certificate

The application procedure begins with the completion and submission of the Pre-Application form for the granting of an AOC. The documents to accompany the application include:

  • Aircraft Flight Manual
  • Maintenance Equipment List for the aircraft to be utilised
  • Operations Manual
  • Operator’s Maintenance Management Exposition
  • Company Exposition
  • Maintenance Programme/Schedule for each aircraft type Training Programme
  • Any lease-purchase agreement on the aircraft, where applicable.

To obtain the Certificate, the operator must demonstrate their capability by meeting the following criteria:

  • Adequacy of documentation
  • Financial capability Assessment
  • Aircraft Conformity inspection
  • Aircraft Proving Test (at least 25 hours)
  • Emergency Evaluation/Ditching Demonstration
  • Adequate staffing and organization
  • Satisfactory Training Programme Implementation

Foreign Air Operators

The provisions of Part 10 of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations on “Commercial Air Transport by Foreign Air Carriers Within Nigeria” must be met before the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) issues the Foreign Carrier Operating Permit.

A foreign air operator shall not operate an aircraft in Nigeria unless it is so authorised by the Authority and holds associated operations specifications containing the special limitations and specific approvals issued to it by the Authority. To operate in Nigeria, foreign air operators must submit an application to the Authority using the approved form and procedures.

An application for approval to operate in the territory of Nigeria shall be accompanied by:

  • A certified true copy of a valid Air Operator Certificate and associated operations specifications issued to the foreign air operator by the Foreign Authority;
  • A copy of the approval page for a Minimum Equipment List for each aircraft type intended to be operated by the foreign air operator in Nigeria;
  • A copy of the current certificate of aircraft registration and certificate of airworthiness issued for each aircraft type proposed to be operated by the foreign air operator in Nigeria;
  • A copy of the insurance certificate;
  • A copy of the operational procedures and practices of the foreign air operator;
  • A copy of a document identifying the maintenance checks that are required to be performed for the aircraft of the foreign air operator while they are operated in the territory of Nigeria;
  • A copy of the maintenance contract between the foreign air operator and the Approved Maintenance Organization, where the maintenance is performed by an Approved Maintenance Organization approved by the Foreign Authority;
  • A copy of the air service agreement, containing a safety clause, allowing the foreign air operator to operate in the territory of Nigeria;
  • In the case of wet-leased aircraft, a copy of the approval of the Authority of the State of the Operator, with identification of the foreign air operator that exercises operational control of the aircraft;
  • In the case of a foreign air operator that does not hold an Air Operator Certificate issued by the Authority, a copy of the proposed air operator security programme; and
  • Any other document the Authority considers necessary to ensure that the intended operations will be conducted safely.

An applicant shall apply for the initial issue of operations specifications at least 90 days before the date of commencement of intended operation.

No foreign aviation operator may begin operations in Nigeria until the NCAA issues a Document of Authorization, Conditions, and Limitations.

The Authority will issue operations specifications to a foreign air operator to conduct commercial air transport operations in Nigeria, where the Authority is satisfied and has confidence in:

  • The validity of the certificates and licences associated with the operator;
  • The operator’s personnel and aircraft;
  • The operational capabilities of the operator; and
  • The level of certification and oversight applied to the activities of the operator by the Foreign Authority;
  • Following approval of the foreign air operator’s application to operate into the territory of Nigeria;
  • Upon a satisfactory administrative review of the documentation provided by the foreign air operator and
  • When it has established bilateral or multilateral agreements with the State of the Operator that includes in the agreement the safety clause; or
  • When it has not established bilateral or multilateral agreements with the State of the Operator, the Authority receives no significant safety findings or major deficiencies from available safety related information relevant to the foreign air operator.

Conclusion

This article explores the steps for a foreign corporation to obtain an aviation license to operate in Nigeria. To operate foreign air services in Nigeria, a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) must exist between Nigeria and the foreign operator’s country of origin. The foreign operator must satisfy the requirements of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations on “Commercial Air Transport by Foreign Air Carriers Within Nigeria” before the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) can award the Foreign Operator Operating Permit.

No foreign air operator is permitted to start operations unless the NCAA has given a Document of Authorisation, Conditions, and Limitations. The procedures ensure that foreign airlines meet the essential safety, security, and regulatory standards before being granted permission to operate in Nigeria’s aviation industry.

Note: The content of this article is anticipated to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstance.

By Adeola Oyinlade & Co.

Adeola Oyinlade & Co.; a full-service law firm in Nigeria provides help and offers advisory to both local and foreign clients on aviation related matters including how to process aviation licenses in Nigeria. 

Need help? Kindly contact us using the details below:

Email: info@adeolaoyinlade.com

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