NIGERIAN Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), has declared a state of emergency on what it describes as the epileptic working condition of communication facilities in the Nigerian airspace, urging the Federal Government to investigate the claims and also request urgent reforms within three months.This is just as the association henceforth rejects the exclusion of Air Traffic Controllers and other stakeholders in decisions affecting the effective discharge of their duties vis-a-vis provision of vital tools used in ensuring air safety.
The association made this declaration in a communiqué issued at the 45th Annual General Meeting/Conference of NATCA held at Crest Hotel & Gardens, Old Airport Road, Jos on 20th and 21st October, 2016 calling government to involve the end users (Pilots’ Association) in its investigation
According to the communique signed by the President and General Secretary, Victor Eyaru and Banji Olawode respectively, the present controller-pilot VHF communication coverage of the country’s airspace does not meet the required standard thereby constituting threats to air safety.
The missive in part read,”We are seriously concerned about the safety of pilots, aircraft and passengers that operate within the Nigerian airspace. Nigeria, on daily basis, loses enormous revenue in foreign exchange due to many aircraft operating within the upper airspace avoiding the Nigeria’s airspace. The inability of Air Traffic Controllers to communicate effectively with pilots over the years has negatively affected the health of Air Traffic Controllers.”
“We hereby call on the Federal Government to investigate these claims by involving the end users (Pilots’ Association) and also request urgent reforms within three months. After this period, the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers may be left with no option than to take necessary actions.”
The association also faulted the adequate workings of the radar equipment (TRACON) stating that it is appalling as a result of frequent failures and called for upgrades to avoid any form of breakdown.
“The lifespan of the TRACON equipment has expired and requires urgent replacement or upgrade. The replacement/upgrade should involve active Air Traffic Controllers and be handled in a transparent way in the interest of the nation.”
On manpower shortage the stated that it was tired of lip service being paid on training adequate manpower, using a comparative example it exposed that manpower in Nigeria is quite low and needed Federal Government and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to immediately recruit more Air Traffic Controllers into the system.
“The Association henceforth rejects the lip service being paid to the Air Traffic Control manpower shortage in the country where only less than half the required number is available. For illustration, Air Traffic Navigation Service (ATNS) of South Africa: Total Personnel: 1,076, Number of Air Traffic Controllers: 500, Number of Area Control Centres: 2, Number of Airport Control Towers: 22. Whereas; Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA): Total Personnel: 2,500, Number of Air Traffic Controllers: 300, Number of Area Control Centres: 2, Number of Airport Control Towers: 32.”
“The inability of the various Agencies employing Air Traffic Controllers such as Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) to provide adequate resources for the recruitment and training of Air Traffic Controllers as a result of the over bloated personnel skewed against the core professionals is unacceptable.”
The AGM with the theme: Government Policies and Challenges of Sustaining Safety Standards in Nigerian Aviation Industry and other important matters affecting Air Traffic Controllers in particular and Aviation industry in general; also resolved that it throws its weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) on his administration’s stance against corruption and other vices in the society.
The Association encouraged the president to extend the fight against corruption to the civil service to rid it of corrupt elements whose activities inflict untold hardship of the Nigerian people; and supports all government policies that can promote safe and efficient air transportation in Nigeria.