Air traffic controllers have declared a state of emergency on the communication facilities at the nation’s airports “in view of their epileptic conditions and the danger posed to air travel”.
The controllers said: “We are heavily disturbed by the deplorable state of the communication facilities; in view of their relevance to airspace travel, we want urgent steps to upgrade them if we indeed care for safety on our airways.”
The controllers’ stance was contained in a communiqué issued after their 45th Annual General Meeting held in Jos, the Plateau State capital.
The document was signed by Victor Eyaru and Banji Olawode, President and Secretary General of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association.
The air controllers particularly decried the poor state of the controller/pilot VHf communication coverage of the country’s airspace, and declared that it constituted a heavy risk since it did not meet required standard.
They said that the “horrible facilities” were dangerous to the safety of pilots, aircrafts and passengers operating within the Nigerian airspace.
The controllers also observed that Nigeria had consistently lost enormous foreign exchange because many aircrafts operating within the upper space usually avoided its airspace.
They further pointed out that the inability of air traffic controllers to communicate effectively with pilots over the years had negatively affected the health of air traffic controllers, hence the need for urgent attention.
The Federal Government, they said, must investigate the status of the communication facilities and take steps to reform the system “within three months”.
They said: “After three months, if nothing tangible is done, the air traffic controllers may be left with no option than to take necessary actions.”
They also noted that the workings of radar equipment had become “appalling”, leading to frequent failures.
They said: “The lifespan of the equipment has expired; it requires urgent replacement or upgrade.
“The replacement process should involved active air traffic controllers and be handled in a transparent way in the best interest of the nation.”
The workers also decried the mass shortage of air traffic controllers, noting that the nation had “just 300” to cater for 32 airport control towers.
They also said: “The situation is a sharp contrast to South Africa that has more than 500 air controller to cater for 22 towers.”
The association urged the Federal Government to recruit more air traffic controllers into the system “in the interest of safety”.
It expressed ample support to government’s stance against corruption and urged that it be extended to the civil service to rid the system of corrupt elements whose actions had hurt the country.