The Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association, NATCA has tacitly supported the federal governments efforts aimed at to sanitising the aviation industry of impunity and corrupt practices that have bedevilled the industry for some years now.
A statement by the association, signed by Victor Eyaru, Olwode Banji, the president and general secretary respectively said the recent revelation from the EFCC’s visit to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is shocking and an attestation to the endemic nature of the unfortunate practice.
NATCA observed with dismay that, Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers have continuously discharged their all -important and safety critical duties with epileptic equipment of which communication at the two Area Control Centers in Kano and Lagos is mostly affected.
“The nation’s radar equipment, TRACON, after close to ten years of its installation, has no backup to cater for period of failure. The existing radar equipment has almost outlived its designed lifespan and requires replacement. No navigational equipment is at its best as well.
Efforts of NATCA and its members to see to fixing of these problems over the years only earned the Air Traffic Controllers various attacks and name calling.
Unfortunately, a lot of fund may have been allocated to fixing the unresolved challenges.
Worthy of mention is the deliberate depriving of Air Traffic Controllers mandatory training since 2012 by continually arrogating such to lack of fund or approval”, the association noted.
NATCA said this has reduced the capacity of the available Air Traffic Controllers to effectively provide various services such as the newly introduced 24-hour Area Radar Service and Performance Based Navigation (PBN).
It pointed out in the statement that another area of fraud urgently deserving the attention of government is in the duplication of departments/directorates and creation of irrelevant departments/offices across the agencies.
The body emphasised that the appointment of non-qualified persons to man sensitive positions has also encouraged fraud and reduced productivity.
“Most of the Agencies have over-bloated staff strength skewed towards the less productive departments. An example is that of NAMA having seven directorates with eight directors as against the original three directorates. The same Agency, with Air Traffic Control service as its core function, has only about 11percent of its employees being Air Traffic Controllers as against between 45 and 70 percent for other similar Air Navigation Service Providers globally”, the association added.
The association commiserated with retired staffers of NAMA who have not been paid their severance benefits close to three years after retirement while financial recklessness recently uncovered (if proven) was ongoing within the same Agency.
Against this development, the body has therefore advised the government that due to the sensitivity and peculiarity of NAMA as an Air Navigation Service Provider, pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigations or appointment of a substantive managing director, the federal government should immediately appoint, in acting capacity, a competent person equally qualified to be appointed as managing director in accordance with the provision of NAMA Establishment Act No.48 Part IV section 8 subsection 2(d) of 1999 (a person who possesses relevant and adequate professional qualifications in a senior management cadre and shall have been so qualified for a period of not less than fifteen years).
NATCA said this is to stem the ongoing leadership crisis due to appointment of two persons as acting managing director within a week and in the interest of air safety.
NATCA maintained that: “NAMA is a very strategic agency that should not be headed by anyone without both technical knowledge and proven administrative expertise in Air Navigation Service Provision (ANSP) under whatever circumstance to avoid any costly decision that could compromise air safety and spell disaster for the whole country; ensure that all the siphoned monies by those involved and their cronies are recovered and returned to the coffers of NAMA.
Thereafter, the guilty should be punished according to the law so as to serve as deterrent to others;extend such probe/investigation into some failed projects in NAMA like the Total VHF Coverage of Nigeria as well as other Aviation Agencies;
rationalize all the agencies directorates, departments/units and staff strength to reflect the original intention of government for creating them and to reposition them for efficiency, approve employment of more hands in the technical areas where there are shortages. ”
The association observed that Air Traffic Controllers are worst hit in this area with only about half of the needed manpower available within NAMA, an Agency with over-bloated staff strength.
It called for the appointment of more credible professionals to man these agencies for purposeful and corrupt-free leadership, stressing that It is on record that the type of recently reported fraud in NAMA has never been witnessed when senior/experienced Air Traffic Controllers led the Agency.
“Urgent approval for the replacement of the available radar equipment (TRACON) before its expiration period and provision of reliable Pilot-Controller and Controller-Controller communication facilities at all the Air Traffic Control Units to enhance air safety;
Rendering assistance towards the speedy payment of outstanding severance benefits to retirees of NAMA to save them from untimely deaths;
Placing higher premium on the timely and adequate training of professionals and discouraging the subsisting practice of using training as compensation;
Strengthening the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to enhance its regulatory duties towards guaranteeing seamless air safety”.