Poor Equipment In Airports, Air Traffic Controllers Decry Dearth Of Experts

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Mr. Abayomi Agoro, President, of NATCA

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has advised the Federal Government to increase the number of Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) in the country, so that air traffic would be effectively handled across all the nation’s airports.

Mr. Abayomi Agoro, President, of NATCA

 

Mr. Abayomi Agoro, President of NATCA, who gave the advice at the weekend said that dearth of ATCs and poor equipment were some of the challenges threatening the safety of air traffic control in most of the airports.

Agoro, while speaking during a courtesy visit to his office by the exco of League of Airport and Aviation Correspondence (LAAC), said that for effective management of air traffic control, the body requires at least 600 to 650 ATCs, adding that a situation whereby one controller was left on duty at the tower was very dangerous.

According to Agoro, a station like Kaduna had less than six ATCs, with the implication that they would work only one per shift, even when the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) had close to 4,000 staff.

On Calabar Airport, Agoro said “Calabar is in a seriously deplorable state, even though, we heard the management is looking to put things in order. The main work there needs to be taken by NAMA because the equipment there is owned by NAMA. The only thing FAAN will do is the structural aspect, including the lifts. The building is becoming dilapidated. when we talk about the radio facilities and others, it is NAMA. NAMA needs to place emphasis on this critical equipment.

“In Katsina today, you have a one man watch and there is no facility for him to go and ease himself. He is a human being; if he wants to urinate, are we saying he is going to get a bottle to urinate? Or descend the tower? If he descends, he is in breach of his professional ethics. So, what do you expect that person to do?”

The NATCA President condemned the recent recruitment of 40 ATCs, stressing that NATCA found it so disheartening to hear that NAMA had arranged a recruitment exercise in which NATCA as an associating was not even aware.

“The recruitment of ATCs has a due process to follow. First, you place an advert and where you don’t place, you ensure that you make the information go round as much as possible, so that people can apply. Then, they will now go for what we call technical evaluation and other assessments. From there, you select the best of them. In this case, we only heard that 40 people were shortlisted. Who are these people?” Agoro queried.

On the emergence of new airports, Agoro said, “We are getting new airports. At least, we know about Anambra, Bayelsa and Ogun states; we need ATCs in those places. Where are we going to get them from? Apart from retirement due to age, there is also the health aspect because of the nature and stress of the job. It causes a lot of stress. That is why NCAA has made conditions for us for annual medical checkups, it’s an ICAO requirement.

“Now, if we are working with the present number of air traffic controllers, you should know that the stress they are passing through is unquantifiable. So, like the number they are given, they say 40, to do what? And we have requested severally, let them review even age limit for ATC because we just need to cover the gap. We have written up to the Ministerial level, but unfortunately when it gets to the recommendation of NAMA, what we get to hear is what has happened from the outside.”


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