Air Traffic Controllers, under the auspices of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) recently withdrew their services and paralysed flight operations at the nation’s airports as they embarked on a six-hour warning strike.
The reason for embarking on the strike was to press home their demand for improved welfare, a demand they have been making since the past years. They equally alleged that another reason for the strike was the epileptic air navigation equipment for effective performance.
The strike had adverse effect on the nation’s economy because it disrupted many Nigerians from attending critical private, social and business meetings as movement of people were hampered.
The strike gave rise to delays, prompting some airlines to cancel flights to some destinations, resulting in loss of millions of naira while the action lasted.
It took the intervention of the management of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), who sent senior officials of the agency to the towers to control flight movement as to curb the adverse consequences of the strike.
Air Traffic Controllers (ATCS) have threatened to go on strike three times within this year, insisting that the management of NAMA must abide by the agreement it reached with the workers to improve their welfare last year. The six hours warning strike was to herald a total industrial action.
NATCA issued a statement that, “it was against the background of no action plan and political will to implement the agreements earlier entered into with the association and others that necessitated the corresponding action by the Air Traffic Controllers.
Despite calling off the planned indefinite strike by the workers, it is expected that the management would address the issues raised by the Air Controllers without allowing them the opportunity to invoke the industrial action that would put the country at the receiving end.
In the case of poor equipment, the air controllers cited incessant failure of air navigation facilities at airports nationwide leading to increase in work load of air traffic controllers and pilots.
A statement by NATCA and signed by its General Secretary, Mr Olawole Banji, said it was disheartening that in the last few months the communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) equipment has been epileptic.
Although the ATCS said that some employees in the agency have spent so much time and energy they would have expended in making facilities function optimally to feed the public with falsehoods as to the semi-ability of the (NS/ATM equipment to cover their ineptitude.
The statement said, “we can, however, say categorically that it is either the personnel responsible for the equipment are incompetent or the incessant failures are as a result of acts of sabortage on their part.
Experts in the aviation industry said because of the special work the controllers are doing, they deserve what they are asking for in the emoluments but lamented that the controllers have acquired the attitude of threatening to shut down the airspace unless their demands were met at the slightest provocation.
An aviation expert who does not want his name in print said when the Associated Aviation Charter flight crashed on take-off at the Murtala Muhammadi International Airport, Lagos, on October 3, 2013, the controllers cashed-in on the opportunity of the tragic incident to issue a statement, condemning the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) and claimed that the landing aids were not working despite the fact that the crash was caused by pilot error.
Again, there is this belief among air controllers that as far as the airspace management is concerned, they should have a pride of place. Part of their latest conditions is that every airport should be manned by a Traffic Controller.
But when they do this, they pitch themselves against engineers who ensure that their working equipment is functional without which the controllers cannot function.
Infact, one of the major challenges facing NAMA is the antagonism or rivalry between the engineers and the controllers. Most times when the controllers condemn their working equipment they want to convey the message that the engineers are not doing their work effectively.
The engineers on their part believe that without their input, there would have been no equipment to work with by the controllers. However, in the cat-and –dog relationship between the two professional bodies it is NAMA, as an agency, that loses.
The Management of NAMA, according to the General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Olajumoke Adetona, said the agency had been consulting with the air traffic controllers and that the management has approved the controllers demand. He also said that the agency did not recognize any staff as superior to the other.
Nevertheless, NAMA must find a way of addressing the rivalry between the two professional bodies to have a smooth operation.
To achieve that they need to embark on sensitization of their workforce and reorientate them to be the best they can be without in fighting with other professional bodies.
NAMA should ensure that workers’ entitlements are paid as at when due to give them a sense of belonging while motivational incentives should be adopted such as best monthly worker and yearly best staff ceremony for the different categories of workers.
The scenario that gave room for such national embarrassment can be avoided if the authorities adopt a proactive approach to issues of staff welfare.
Therefore, the ministry of aviation should nip such circumstances in the bud before it escalates into full blown disagreement to warrant an industrial dispute.
The authorities should equally utilize the early warning signals for possible intervention before it degenerates to a situation where airline operations would not only be affected but the economy with the consequent battering of the country’s image abroad.
African Cargo Traffic Records 3.8% Increase
African carriers have recorded a 3.8 per cent surge in freight demands amid a 4.8 per cent slump in global demand.The African region was the only one to report growth in June 2019 according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) data for global air freight markets released yesterday.
This makes Africa the strongest performer for the fourth consecutive month as capacity grew 16.6 per cent. Route analysis shows that the Africa-Asia performance is strong, up 12 per cent year-on-year. Data for global air freight markets showed that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs), decreased by 4.8 per cent in June 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. This marks the eighth consecutive month of year-on-year decline in freight volumes.
Signs of a modest recovery in recent months appear to have been premature, with the June contraction broad-based across all regions with the exception of Africa.
Capacity growth remains subdued and the cargo load factor continues to fall. Globally, trade growth is languishing, and business uncertainty is compounded by the latest tariff increases in the U.S.-China trade dispute.
IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alexandre de Juniac, said global trade continues to suffer as trade tensions – particularly between the U.S. and China – deepen.
“As a result, air cargo markets continue to contract. Nobody wins a trade war. Borders that are open to trade spread sustained prosperity. That’s what our political leaders must focus on,” he said. Airlines in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East once again suffered the sharpest declines in year-on-year growth in total air freight volumes in June 2019. Africa was the only region to show any growth.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for air freight contract by 5.4 per cent in June 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. Although an important factor, the U.S.-China trade war is not solely responsible for the fall. FTKs for the within-Asia market have decreased more than 10 per cent over the past year. Air freight capacity increased by 1.8 per cent over the same period.
North American airlines’ freight demand decreased by 4.6 per cent in June 2019, compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity increased by 1.9 per cent over the past year. U.S.-China trade tensions are weighing on the performance, with FTKs to Asia down five per cent. FTKs on routes to/from Europe, South America and Middle East were also lower.
European airlines posted a 3.6 per cent decrease in freight demand in June 2019 compared to the same period a year earlier. Comparatively strong cargo volumes within Europe are helping to minimise the impact of weaker German exports. Capacity increased by 2.8 per cent year-on-year.
Middle Eastern airlines’ freight volumes decreased 7.0 per cent in June 2019 compared to the year-ago period. Capacity increased by 2.7 per cent. Seasonally-adjusted demand has been falling since late 2018, and the latest data show volumes to Europe (-7.2 per cent) and Asia-Pacific (-6.5 per cent) were particularly weak.
Latin American airlines experienced a decrease in freight demand in June 2019 of 1.0 per cent compared to the same period last year and capacity increased by 4.6 per cent. Much of the decline in traffic can be attributed to weakness in the within-South America market (especially Brazil and Argentina) where FTKs fell 6.5 per cent.
FAAN Boss Restates Commitment To Improve Airport Operations
The new Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, says he is determined to improve airport operations in the country.
He said that aviation industry all over the world had moved up through the adoption of new processes and technology and that Nigeria as a well respected nation could not afford to be left behind among other countries.
Yadudu who disclosed this at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos, Wednesday, explained that the aviation industry has evolved new technology and new processes, and urged aviation stakeholders to embrace the new trend.
“The industry is moving with new technology and new processes, and it is either you are going forward or you are moving backward, and so we have to keep improving services, processes and procedures.
“ Primarily, I need to say in the next few months, we are going to concentrate on improving ourselves and I think the best way is that we are going to improve the agency by discipline.
“We must sustain a high level of discipline year-in, year-out as it allows you to perform to the best of your ability. We must maintain a high standard in terms of personal discipline in the discharge of our professional responsibilities, and with all these qualities, we can accomplish all”, he said.
The new FAAN boss, however, commended his predecessor, Engr. Saleh Dunoma for successfully leading the organisation with his wealth of experience gathered during his years of meritorious service in the authority.
He described Saleh as a professional whose experience would be needed for further development of the aviation sector and therefore promised to maintain a regular contact with him whenever there was need for his assistance.
Stakeholder Calls For Rebuilding Of MMIA
An international business executive and a regular air passenger at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Chief Marckson Ndukwe, has called on the Federal Government to rebuild the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, saying the airpot’s capacity is being over stretched.
He said that the Lagos airport which was built in 1979 had never had any expansion work done on it, in spite of the increase in the number of foreign and indigenous carriers using the airport.
Ndukwe who made this known while speaking to aviation correspondents in an interview at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Wednesday, noted that the federal authorities had not done enough to meet up with the increasing population in air transportation in the country.
According to him, the construction giant in Nigeria; Julius Berger Nigeria Limited had carried out a comprehensive study on the reconstruction of the airport on the quest for rebuilding the airport.
“Since 1979 when the Murtala Mohammed Airport was built, no expansion work has taken place despite increase of foreign and indigenous carriers using the airport.
“ The airport which was inaugurated in 1979 for 300,000 passenger capacity now processes about eight million passengers. Such mismatch does not portray Nigeria as a country planning for the growth of its aviation industry.
“ The airport generates most of the income in the sector, and so it is only right it is given a facelift that it requires as the most busy airport in the country which should be developed as a regional hub within Africa”, he said.
The business executive, however, urged the federal authorities and the airport managers to also consider other airports in the country like the Port Harcourt International airport among others, for competitive airline operations.
He said that the Lagos airport was almost congested with influx of airlines, whereas some other airports like the Port Harcourt airport has just few airlines that operate there.
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