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Between ATCs’ Professionalism And Patriotism

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Air Traffic Controllers
(ATCs) recently demanded for improvement in working facilities and better welfare package for members.
The ATCs through their umbrella body, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) issued a statement and notified the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) of their plan to embark on strike and therefore shutdown the airspace.
Since the union issued the statement, it has caused serious panic among local and international airlines that operate in Nigeria, with some planning to cancel their flights to Lagos and other international airports in the country.
The members of NATCA are caught in the web of professionalism and patriotism to work like their counterparts all over the world or swallow the bitter pill of continuous silence by working with no modern facilities in this century.
ATC members alleged recently that Nigeria does not have functional landing aids and that the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON), had broken down. This statement had sent different signals to stakeholders operators and users depending on which divide one belongs.
Honestly, important issues such as this should be given the attention they deserve especially as the nation had witnessed aircrashes which memories are still fresh in our heads. Relevant agencies and even national lawmakers should carry out their oversight functions by investigating the veracity of the Air Traffic Controllers, claim of broken-down radar coverage.
The nation cannot afford to allow another air accident because of frivolous excuses, even as the pain being inflicted by the Boko Haram insurgency is taking a horrendous toll on Nigerians, particularly those in the North East of the country.
Industry stakeholders are divided along the lines of professionalism and patriotism as some have disparaged the controllers, describing their action as an act of sabotage. They also accuse them of denigrating the industry because they want the NAMA management to concede to their demands.
President of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria (AFARN), Mr Kingsley Nwokoma, said that he received many calls from international cargo airlines that were billed to come to the country because the report that  the airspace would be shut down left them confused and they urgently wanted clarification.
Nwokoma said such report damages the image of the country, especially as TRACON was concerned with safety which is a critical equipment, so if there is any report that it was not in good working condition such could even make some airlines to stop coming to Nigeria.
According to him, “there were serious concerns because if the airspace was going to be shut, it would adversely affect these airlines operating in Nigeria.
Therefore, they called to ascertain what the situation was and we told them that it was an internal thing; that it would not generate to the closure of the airspace. They demanded for regular feedback so that they would not be caught unawares.
He equally indicated that NAMA management and the ATCs should be able to reach amicable resolution to their industrial disputes observing that it smacked of unpatriotism when such dispute was used to threaten and misinform the world about safety in the nation’s airspace.
The AFARN President further noted that what happened damaged the image of the country. They should be able to manage the information better and avoid a mockery of Nigeria.
The Director of Consumer Protection Directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA),  Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi, also joined in the condemnation of the union’s action, reiterating that it was against the interest of Nigeria, particularly overseas.
In the words of Abdullahi, “by and large such an issue is not good for the image of the country. Due to the fact that if you don’t have peace in the industry, then it means there is nothing to be desired. If  Total Radar coverage of Nigeria as the ATC’s claim is not working, they should have internal mechanism of solving the problem.”
The Consumer Protection Director picked holes in the entire epidode by questioning what the ATCs had done as there are internal avenues to get the attention of management and further report to the Minister of Aviation for intervention through their union.
Another industry player, Kunle Ojo, said threatening to go on strike required that certain steps had been followed without positive response.
Obviously, there are rules of engagement in going on strike and I guess all unions take that into consideration.
He expressed happiness that the issues were resolved strike and averted, thereby saving the nation the embarrassment from the international community.
Abdullahi remarked thus, “but then we have to look inwards and final out ways of resolving issues at our own levels before it escalates into strike by being proactive and not reactive in our approaches.”
A travel expert, Mr Ikechi Uko who said he was also contacted by foreign organisations over threat to shut down the airspace by the controllers cautioned that labour disputes should be settled by concerned agencies whom he said needed not drag the image of the country down because of the narrow interest of some people.
“I didn’t know about the planned industrial strike until I was called from overseas to enquire whether the airspace would actually be shut down.
It looked like a play but when I browsed the internet, I read the threat. First, it is not within the powers of the controllers to shut down the airspace but people may believe it. It is really a bad signal to our industry.
People should not play with what God has given to them. Aviation is a global business,” Uko said.
An, air traveller with a chartered private flight  who does not want his name in print told The Tide Aviation correspondent to investigate an alleged narrow escape from air mishap at the Port Harcourt International Airport, when the control mistakenly cleared two aircraft to land at the same time.
However, the investigation hit a brick wall as the authorities and agencies expected to know, denied knowledge of any such incident at the airport, and this was compounded by the fact that the sources could not give more information but thank God for averting the calamity.
An official of the National Union of Air Travellers Employees (NUATE), said although the image of Nigeria was at stake the ATCs must have tried severally to get the attention of the authorities over their plight since government listens only when workers commence strike. He cited the case of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), health workers and the judiciary workers among others.

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COVID-19: Arik Airline Sacks 300 Staff

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At least 300 staff of Arik Air have been relieved of their appointments by the airline’s management.

This was announced in a statement by the airline on Friday.
It blamed the sacking on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The press statement was titled, “Arik Air management declares 300 staff redundant”.
The company explained that a redundancy package would be provided for the affected workers with the help of the aviation unions.
The statement read in part, “Arising from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the constrained ability of the airline to complete heavy maintenance activities and return its planes to operations, stunted revenues against increasing operational costs, the management of Arik Air (In Receivership) has declared 300 staff members redundant to its current level of operations.
“The leadership of the impacted unions has been contacted to negotiate a redundancy package for the affected staff.”
The airline added that over 50 per cent of its workforce of over 1,600 staff have been on furlough in the past six months.
In a separate statement also forwarded to our correspondent by its Public Relations and Communications Manager, Banji Ola, the airline apologised to passengers whose travel plans were disrupted by the protest carried out by the National Union of Air Transport Employees on December 3, 2020.
The picketing disrupted operations in Lagos and prevented the airline from processing passengers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Domestic Terminal 1 and 2.

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S’East Leaders Laud FG Over EndSARS

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South-East leaders on Saturday, lauded the Federal Government on the matured and responsive manner it handled all issues relating to the EndSARS protest and agitation.
The leaders of the zone, which included Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members as well as traditional, religious and youth leaders, gave the commendation in a communiqué issued after their meeting with a Presidential delegation in Enugu.
The presidential delegation was led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who is the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We thank President Buhari for the speed and restraint with which he handled the EndSARS protest, which has engendered peace throughout the country, especially the South-East.
“We, therefore, request the President to look into demands of various groups and youths with a view to resolving them,’’ the statement, which was read by the Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum, Governor Dave Umehi, said.
It also called for joint operation by security agencies and local vigilant groups into all forests in the zone to flush out criminals and killer herdsmen with AK47 rifles.
“But we pledge our commitment to continuous coexistence with peaceful herdsmen who have been living peacefully with us.
“We stand for an indivisible and united Nigeria, built on love, fairness, equity and justice. We believe that under this platform – NIGERIA; we are bigger and stronger,’’ it said.
It also called on the Federal Government to continue its support and diplomatic push for the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be elected as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The statement thanked the Federal Government for the timely interventions in Akanu Ibiam International Airport rehabilitation as well as intervention in road infrastructures in the zone.
“We are grateful for the attention given to the second Niger Bridge and completion and inauguration of the Zik’s mausoleum.
“However, we urge the Federal Government to give attention to the completion of the current road projects within the zone,’’ it said.
The statement said that the states in the zone will provide money for the compensation for those affected by the EndSARS protest, help to rebuild police stations and their logistics; while engaging the youths constantly to forestall any violent development in the zone.
“We have plans to set up various empowerment programmes to gainfully engage the youths. The governors also plan to mainstream the youths in their governance to give them a sense of belonging.

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Minister Hails Meeting With S’East Leaders

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described as “extremely fruitful” the meeting which a presidential team had with leaders and stakeholders of the South-East.
“The meeting of the presidential delegation with South-East leaders was very useful,’’ Mohammed told journalists on Sunday in Enugu.
The delegation, led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, met for more than eight hours in Enugu with selected South-East leaders.
Mohammed said that it was quite instructive that all the groups which took part in the meeting believed in the unity and oneness of the country, pointing out that they clearly spelt out this in their presentations.
“We listened clearly and carefully to all the positions and demands and we are going back to report directly to President Buhari,’’ the minister said.
He noted that the Federal Government had been spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country, simultaneously and equitably.
“We want the South-East people to be confident that the Federal Government is spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country equitably and will never marginalise any zone in the ongoing development and infrastructure agenda.
“This is what I want to assure Nigerians living in the South-East,’’ Mohammed noted.
According to the minister, when the team gets back to Abuja it will see what can be done immediately concerning some of the positions and demands made by the South-East leaders.
The presidential delegation met with South-East governors, statesmen, elders, religious and traditional leaders, as well as market women and youth leaders.

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