Nigeria: Concern About Air Safety Mounts

Yemisi Izuora 

The Aviation Round Table (ART), Nigeria’s aviation advocacy group has urged agencies involved in the management of air navigational services to immediately overhaul and migrate to modern technology driven with an accurate and effective communication system to promote aviation safety.

The group raised serious concerns over communication gap exhibited between airline operators and air traffic controllers which it said has variously resulted in instances of air and ground returns, abortion/cancellation of flights with attendant jeopardy to flight safety and financial losses to airline operators.

In a position paper to the Federal Government ART, advised the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to diligently discharge their duties to operators in the industry by ensuring that air navigational services and ground handling services both at the point of departure and destination are more efficient in order to prevent incidences of flight clearance /approval at departure and denial of landing rights at destination.

A strict enforcement of international best practice bolstered by the imposition of appropriate sanctions for defaulting agency or persons, they noted could help to address unwholesome operational safety lapses.

It would be recalled that NAMA, had in March commenced upgrade of existing facilities including the deployment of new communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management systems.

The Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu said the Federal Government had concluded plans to install multi-million dollar Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) in 11 airports across the country and had made an order and contracts for 11 Instrument Landing System.

According to him, There are 11 ILSs that are going to be installed. They are brand new. Don’t let us forget that they are going to recover some items. Lagos has an ILS; I think Ibadan too is going to get newer ones. So, whatever we recover, we can put them in some other places. I would expect that over time when the materials, assets are in, we should be able to do not less than 18 fields.”

Although, Akinkuotu was silent on the cost of the instrument, aggregating the numbers from several quarters, getting a Category II/III system up and running these days would cost at least $3 million per runway, plus at least $10, 000 or so per year just to keep it certified, bringing the entire cost to $33 million.

Many airports use ILS to guide pilots to land, especially in horrible weather conditions. But the snag really is on landing aids. Only very few airports out of the 24 airports in Nigeria have airfield lighting and ILS.

ART, however, commended the Presidency for the recently issued Executive Orders designed to facilitate the ease of doing business in the Aviation sector of the economy.

The group in a statement said “In furtherance of this unique presidential initiative, our body also appreciate the dismantling of the “dash table “at our international airports which have improved passenger facilitation.  ART recommends that operators and various agencies involved in Aviation should also address the following administrative and safety issues.”

The group called on the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), NAMA and Trade Unions to desist from embarrassing the country with acts of barricading check- in- counters of airlines in order to collect outstanding payments.

The body advised that the agencies should develop efficient and effective ways of collecting dues, rates and remittances from operators in the industry rather than strong arm tactics that could lead to the breakdown of law and order in the airport environment.

“The agencies, who render services at a fee should also be insured; while also compensating for financial losses resulting from negligence and failure to discharge responsibilities to operators, clients or passengers. This is the hallmark of corporate governance and ease of doing business”.

ART stated that it would continue to support all measures by government and its agencies in the promotion of flight safety and passenger convenience towards the revival of the Nigerian economy and the ease of doing business.

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