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Air Traffic Controllers Threaten To Shut Nation’s Airspace
By Abiose Adelaja Adams
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, NATCA, has said it would embark on a total shutdown of the nation’s airspace by Monday April 20, if pending issues of welfare and better functioning equipment are not addressed.
A warning strike lasting six hours was to have been carried out Thursday. In a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday the association said the strike is necessitated by the failure of the federal Government through the Nigeria Airspace Management Authority, NAMA, to implement the agreements earlier reached with the association last year.
They complained of incessant failure of air navigation equipment at airports and poor welfare and working conditions as issues that could compromise air safety if not addressed.
Jointly signed by the president of the association, Victor Egaru and the secretary Olawode Banji, said that a six hour warning strike would preceed the full blown action planned for next Monday.
“Today’s action will last six hours only as a warning sign but in preparation for a major and total industrial action which shall commence on Monday April 20, 2015, if relevant government bodies continue to treat Air Traffic Controllers issues with utmost levity or neglect. Tempers are high, but industrial peace and harmony must be the concern of everybody,” it read.
Speaking further on the rationale for the planned action, the association’s executives said “It is disheartening that in the last two months the CNS/ATM equipment has been epileptic and alarming, thereby increasing the workloads of both ATCs and Pilots.”
CNS/ATM is a universal aviation system which refers to Communications, Navigation, Surveillance and Air traffic Management Systems. These include ground and aircraft-based systems that determines the capacity and capabilities of the airspace in question.
“They said further that the Instrument Landing System (ILS) serving the Lagos Runway 18R “has been unserviceable for close to three months while the one serving the Second Runway (18L) has been epileptic for more than one month”.
In addition, it is alleged that the distance measuring equipment located with the VOR in Lagos has also been out of service for a long time and that equipment in many airports including communication facilities suffer that same fate
Air controllers are professionals who instruct the pilot on safe landing and take-off rules for the avoidance of plane collision or crashes.
However, since they make many split second decisions and constantly require high situational awareness, the acquisition of up-to- date equipment, knowledge and skills, cannot be compromised.
NAMA has, indeed, confirmed that domestic flights across the country were grounded for six hours Thursday morning due to the air traffic controllers’ action.
The general manager of the agency, Olajumoke Adetona, apologized to the general public in a statement issued in Lagos headquarters. “Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), hereby wishes to inform the general public that the relevant authorities have been in consultation with Air
Traffic Controllers on their agitation for enhanced welfare,” he said in a statement. He assured, however that “the situation is gradually returning to normal as flight operations have resumed at the various airports across the nation, while expressing regrets for the disruption in flight schedules..”