Air traffic controllers under the aegis of Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) have expressed concern over dearth of manpower. They called on the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to address the problems to tackle air safety. This is just as they frown at the continuous employment into the agency of non-technical staff instead of engaging personnel the agency was in dire need of. President, NATCA, Mr. Abayomi Agoro, who spoke to New Telegraph at the celebration of the 2020 Air Traffic Controllers Day, with the theme: ‘Essential Professionals,’ disclosed that the industry was in a dire need of more committed people to move air traffic services forward. Agoro explained that with less than 350 ATCOs across the country, the number had continued to decline as many of them had attained the mandatory retirement age in service.
The NATCA boss remarked that with the projection of doubling the number of airports in country in the next few years as disclosed by the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, a few days ago, it would be suicidal should government continue to pay deaf ears to their continuous agitation for increase in ATC personnel in the country. He noted that there were no replacements for the retired ones, adding that no recruitment had been done in the past two years. According to him, “they need to engage more hands, especially in the area of air traffic control services, not non-technical staff.
There is need to engage younger ones” Agoro urged the management of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to exploit the laid down policy of engaging, training and absorbing more ATCOs into the system, which has not been done in the past two years. He lamented that all kinds of people were being brought into the system while the core ATC personnel were left out, adding that these ones were of no relevance to the system.
“We have quite a number of senior ATCs who are getting due for retirement and have approached the government that if they can’t employ new ones, they should elongate the tenure of the retiring ones to ensure that the system keep running,” he said.
Agoro also urged NAMA to follow due process in engaging ATCs as everybody can not be an ATC based on its technicalities, stressing that only the qualified ones should be engaged by seasoned professionals in employing new ATCOs to avoid tribalism and favoritism in the system. He lamented that there had not been improvement in training and this should not be blamed on the global pandemic. Also speaking on the ATC Day, Mr. Kolawole Ojo, the Lagos Zonal Vice President, explained that to ensure effectiveness of their performance, there should be adequate manpower, well motivated and this could be achieved through updating and upgrading of the systems. Ojo said with the dynamic nature of aviation, stakeholders must adhere to changes globally, lamenting that the global pandemic had negatively impacted on their international trainings.
He said NATCA had been able to make do with local trainings available to get the best with over 300 ATCOs checked for proficiency by the NCAA which had brought them up to date and enabled them key into the system. Ojo noted that during the lockdown, ATCOs remained on duty and maintained all COVID-19 safety protocols.
He said though NAMA management had tried in the provision of navigational aids, more still needed to be done to meet up with other states. On how they were able to cope during the lockdown, the General Secretary, NATCA, Mr. Agbonlahor Felix, said arrangements were put in place to ensure few controllers were on duty at a time in observance of the protocols of social distancing and others.