Air Traffic Central...

President of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Abayomi Agoro, has called on aviation authorities across west Africa to prioritise air traffic control operations in decision making and give improved attention to air navigation and safety systems.


"The government should include aviation agencies and ATC in their annual budgetary provisions and support the system." ABAYOMI AGORO

Speaking in an exclusive interview with African Aerospace, Agoro said: “NATCA has been advocating for welfare of its members that cuts across adequate training, unnecessary meddling in airtraffic controllers’ employment, and provision of working tools, among others.”

“NATCA can only plead with the government to do what is needed on the air navigation service providers (ANSP) by placing more emphasis on their core mandate.

“The resources are scarce and should be tailored towards the priority areas. We have too many staff in the agencies, but the operational staff are grossly inadequate. That should be the focus of attention, coupled with the system upgrades. These are challenges that, if not attended to, can impair safety and service deliveries,” he said.

Considering the fact that more airports have been built by state governments in Nigeria, increasing the numberto be manned from 21 to 32 and creating demand for more ATC personnel in the country, amidst a deficit of more than 250 controllers, Agoro said: “It is obvious that we have a manpower challenge and inadequate personnel to man the existing facilities. Now that the states are more interested in building more airports, it is in their best interest to assist the agencies responsible forthe services provision, by funding the training and recruitment of staff.

“The government should include aviation agencies and ATC in their annual budgetary provisions and support the system.”

Agoro frowned at governments’ frequent claims of paucity of funds as an excuse for not training adequate airtraffic controllers. “We are concerned about the recruitment of competent hands and training. Today, we still have challenges in training as they claim it's due to the paucity of funds, but we see more administrative and financial training being budgeted for and running yearin, year out.”

On the push for all African countries to sign and implement the single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) agreement, Agoro called for a careful observation ofthe single European skies initiative asAfrica works towards that collaboration.

“I believe that such effort is meant to create some kind of economics of scale as done in the single European sky case to enable the region to compete favourably with other aviation entities engaged in such regional collaboration. The issue of trust among associating members in this kind of arrangement would be the test for Africa’s success. If the European Union, as sophisticated as it is in dealing with large scale collaboration is currently in a battle for survival, then we should consult properly before venturing into this collaboration,” Agoro advised.

Commenting on the impact ofrecent military coups in some countries in west Africa on aviation activities in the sub region, Agoro said: “A military coup by nature, is a disruption of the normal flow of the democratic process and affects aviation activities momentarily by giving the national airspace an unsafe status and scaring international airlines from even overflying the airspace."

“While this disruption lasts, revenue generated by all commercialised aviation is stalled. This certainly affects airtraffic control and other service providers that depend on these activities for sustenance.”

On regional ATC collaboration, Agoro said “NATCA and other ATC associations in Africa and the Indian Ocean area, underthe banner of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA) are united in so many respects, particularly in the area of lending opinions on matters that require members’ collaboration. The relationship is very cordial and mutually beneficial.”

However, he called on IFATCA, which NATCA hosted in Abuja from December 6 to 9, 2023, to support member associations’ in their efforts to overcome technical, operational and welfare challenges, underscoring their integralrole in the federation’s success.

Chiedu Albinus Emeke

Chiedu Albinus Emeke

Chiedu has been a West Africa correspondent for African Aerospace since 2016.