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.
Nigeria Saves $500,000 From Calibration Aircraft – Minister
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has said that Nigeria will be saving a lot of money from the acquisition of a custom made calibration aircraft recently acquired by the Federal Government.
Sirika who disclosed this while speaking to aviation correspondents in Abuja, Tuesday, said the purpose of the aircraft was to calibrate navigational equipment and aid the country for the purpose of flight operations.
The aircraft which is worth about $8.5 million, according to the minister, will be commercialised to generate revenue, and keep the industry safe.
“We used to have one in Nigeria, but for the last two decades, we never had any. What propelled us to procure this aircraft was that while we were reconstructing the Abuja runway, we needed to recalibrate all those landing aids. That is the standard requirement and this is to ensure they are working in perfect order.
“The last time Nigeria had such aircraft was 20 years ago under cover aviation flying unit. We did not have the capacity as a country, the only people close to us that had is ASECNA which is owned by French speaking countries, but the aircraft is domiciled in Niger.
“We approached them but they did not have a slot for us. If I hadn’t got the support of far away South Africa, we would not beat the six weeks deadline.
“Nigeria will be saving a lot of money by procuring this aircraft. I know I paid about $500,000 when our equipment was due to South African contractor to carry out the task.
“ If you say every six months, we will do this, and that would be half a million dollars every six months. So when we do it sixteen times, the value of the aircraft would have been paid. Not only that, we will commercialise it to generate revenue and keep our industry safe “, Sirika said.
The minister, however, explained that it took about nine months from when the request was made to the completion and installation of the equipment.
The Tide reports that the aircraft was built in Textron Aviation Services, Kansas in the United States, and it is expected to improve safety in the aviation industry.
PH Airport Manager Seeks Safety Awareness, Education At Airports
The Safety Manager, Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Mr Oguche Samuel, has harped on the need for continuous awareness and education on safety at the nation’s airports.
He said the continuous safety education would create awareness to staff and stakeholders at the airports on their safety responsibilities.
Samuel disclosed this while addressing participants at the safety promotion day at the airport which focused on Foreign Object Deris (FOD),
He urged participants and staff to be good safety ambassadors in their day to day activities, stressing that safety is one of the core values of FAAN.
Meanwhile, the management of the Port Harcourt International Airport has keyed into the Airport Emergency Plan programme as plans are in full gear towards the certification of the airport.
The Tide reliably learnt that the management of the airport recently took steps in training staff in relevant departments on emergency plan.
Instructors from Accra in Ghana, it was gathered, were invited to train some of the staff of the airport in the later part of last year.
The training was aimed at developing staff capacity to effectively and efficiently handle emergency response with the certification of the airport.
FAAN Moves To Check Security Threats At Airside
Following reported cases of intrusion into airside at the nation’s airports, particularly at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at nights, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu has taken steps to install thermal and infrared cameras for airside monitoring and patrol.
The introduction of thermal and infrared cameras is meant to monitor and expose happenings or any intruder who manages to gain access to airports, especially at nights.
FAAN, in a press statement on Tuesday, said it took the steps because anything that happens at the airside, has a ripple effect on the aviation industry.
“We are mostly particular about the airside because at the end of the day, security and safety are paramount and anything that happens at the airside has a ripple effect and we are here to ensure that our airports are safe.
FAAN posited that it is a dangerous practice to go and open aircraft cargo door because of the engine blast which might occur on the process.
“The proximity switch and the plunder could vibrate when the engine level is moved above idle running; for some seconds, the light may flash and warning light will remain off. It is even an easy thing to open the cargo door while the engine is running.
“Rotation of the handle activates a torque tube to withdraw the latch rollers from the latch fitting and as the door swings on board under tension of the door balance mechanism, the door warning proximity switch is activated to energize the appropriate door warning in the control cabin to alert the Crewe”, FAAN stated.
Enumerating other efforts being made to tackle the problem, FAAN explained that the Authority has put patrol vans fitted with cameras on the dashboard to capture the environment during patrol, saying although this might be a temporary measure.
Our correspondent reports that there were reports of incidents of intruders allegedly opening the cargo compartment of aircraft either taxing or holding on the runway, particularly at the Lagos airport, which had become a cause of concern to FAAN management.
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