Nigeria’s head of civil aviation is accusing Europe of using safety blacklists as a mechanism for unfair competition and he also says many of the air accidents that occur in Africa are due to foreign registered aircraft or aircraft operating there illegally.

The U.S. FAA has a system where if it deems that a country is unsafe, it bans all airlines from that country and it also prevents U.S. carriers from operating there, noted Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Director General H.O. Demuren, but the Europeans only ban the airlines from the blacklisted country while allowing European airlines to continue flying there.

When Europe blacklists an African nation, European carriers immediately boost flights there to fill the void left by the African carriers, Demuren told delegates yesterday at the Flight Safety Foundation’s Air Safety Seminar in Singapore. If the Europeans really believed a country was unsafe, then they should prevent all airlines from flying there, he said, adding that “there are people using safety for commercial advantage....If a place is unsafe, let’s shut it down and work together to improve it.”

Africa has a far higher air accident rate than many other regions of the world. But Demuren said many of Africa’s air accidents actually involve foreign registered aircraft. Some countries recognize foreign air operator certificate (AOC) holders. Demuren says problems arise because the African regulator may then fail to properly regulate those foreign AOC holders, many of which come from former Soviet states. He also says an issue that Africa faces is that some people are able to get away with operating aircraft in Africa illegally, because they base themselves in war-torn African countries.

Demuren says the Nigerian CAA is pushing for greater regional cooperation to help ensure no African nation is left behind when it comes to safety. He says the Nigerian CAA has been helping poorer neighboring nations by, for example, sending Nigerian aircraft safety inspectors there to assist. It is in Nigeria’s interest to do this, because airlines from those nations may end up flying to Nigeria, he adds.

Another challenge African civil aviation authorities face is political interference.

“Many director generals of civil aviation have been removed [in Africa] for standing up for safety,” said Demuren, adding that it is important that there be “safety regulation with no political interference.”