ATCs expose rot in Nigeria’s control towers; reveal ‘Kaduna has no tower’

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Nigeria in aviation has recently had some good news, the first codeshare between Ibom air and Dana air, the launching of Green Africa Airlines, the development of the National airline. But a look at behind the scenes of the aviation sector recently by the ATC cannot be classified as good news.

AIR traffic controllers have revealed that the Kaduna Airport has no control tower to navigate the airlines just as they have decried the deplorable conditions in airport control towers around the nation’s airports including Katsina, Kano, Sokoto and Calabar among other aerodromes; stating that no airport in the country is fully functional.

There are currently no fewer than 650 controllers needed in the country to meet the growing needs of existing and new airports. These statistics are hindered since the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) employs over 4000 employees, of which less than 400 are core professionals.

President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Abayomi Agoro who alongside his team played host to some aviation correspondents revealed these shocking realities from the lack of a control tower at the Kaduna Airport to the lack of a urinary system at the Katsina control tower and failed equipment in Kano stressing that ATCs bear the brunt of the dilapidated system.

As he said, “The working environment is becoming deplorable… I told you that any of your members can walk into our working facilities and get a real-time assessment, as I am talking to you now, some airports even lack working equipment. In Kaduna, they never built a control tower; they use a firefighter’s observation room (which wasn’t built for that purpose). We have been calling on the government to help, when it rains in Sokoto today, the controllers will go find umbrellas to sit at the control tower, and what is it?

We approached the FAAN and NAMA to integrate the towers, but NAMA refused. FAAN responded with questions like, Is it your staff that is working at the terminal building? It is because of bureaucracy that controllers will continue to file complaints.

“We are still battling with terrestrial radio frequency, communication here and there. Calabar is there; there is no airport you will go to today that you would say things are working 80%

The Deputy Vice President of NATCA, Ahmed Adamu Bello, spoke on Katsina, expressing dismay at the working conditions as there is no system to answer nature’s call unless the ATC leaves the building, which is against professional ethics.

Bello said,” Also, you mentioned Katsina, where you have a one-man watch and there is nowhere for him to go and ease himself. A human being just needs to relieve himself, so are we saying that he will receive a bottle? Or descend from the tower? There is no bathroom available in Katsina, nothing, and all of these facts are verifiable. If he descends, he is breaching his professional ethics, so what would you expect him to do?

On Kano, he said,” Kano fine building, that all. It is a failure as far as facilities are concerned. We are not emotional, we are angry because if I put my whole life into this, I expect the system to provide me with the working tools to be able to do so. After spending close to two years in the training school, I shouldn’t be frustrated that a system does not want to give me the opportunity to excel.

According to the NATCA President, the Federal Government allocates money, NAMA also generates money, but he is unsure of where the monies are going since nothing has been done to improve or enhance the towers.

Things aren’t going well. Our members also tell us we are not carrying out our responsibilities. We need to go and beg for ordinary chairs if we reach some control towers. This year I have met the NAMA management asking them that ordinary chairs we can’t have for controllers who will sit 6-12 hours are you saying these persons will not have back pains and again these people have climbed the multitude of stairs because the elevators are not there or don’t work, it’s not ideal. Even when our members complain to us, we are in tears we don’t know what to say,” the president said.

On staff strength of ATCs nationwide and the impending workload Agoro said it was shameful that NAMA has gone on to employ everyone but core professionals in the critical areas who are needed to do the job stating that even as there is a lack of ATCs, redundant staff are sitting while collecting money for doing nothing only to run one week in, one week out shifts.

Agoro said,” I think we should have between 600 and 650 because it is dangerous and we must admit it. While a station like Kaduna has less than six ATCs they definitely will only work one per shift but I can tell you that NAMA has close to 4,000 staff.

“Even in some departments, you may see them drawing a roster, ‘If you are coming this week, don’t come next week’, so what are we trying to say? At a point in time, NAMA tried to do internal recruitment in order to try to hire some of those redundant staff and then train them; at least it could help the system, but they did not want to, and the employees who agreed to convert today regret doing so. Most of them have been in one place for seven, eight years, which discourages others from leaving. What does NAMA HR intend to do?

“They are asking who asked us to convert and go there. They are now our members, but many regret it. Is that how an organization should be? People come to work day in and day out doing nothing, and then they are paid. They have brought so many people in the agency who are not meaningfully engaged all they just do is to sit down and we are talking about a critical area where we have a gap.”

Will NAMA listen or not? is this is beginning of a solution or is nothing going to be done about these complaints and life-threatening issues?

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