Aircraft landing at the airport
One of the devastating effects of insecurity in the northern part of the country occasioned by terrorist activities is that it has started inhibiting the broader aspect of the nation’s socioeconomic activities.
The disruption of communications in the airspace in the areas around Maiduguri and its environs has been attributed to insecurity as communication installations and other navigational aids cannot be accessed due to the risks involved in getting to their locations.
Communication in the airspace is powered by VHF radio, which takes communication to the satellite that extends the communication range to master stations located in some towns and cities in the country.
It is these stations which run on generators 24 hours a day that ensure that the airspace communication is working, but sometimes NAMA officials cannot take diesel to these stations because of insecurity so the generators are shut down.
This does not happen often because the outstations are always well stocked with fuel for the generators, but whenever it happens communication in the airspace is disrupted.
During those few occasions some flights overflying Nigeria’s airspace may seek alternative communication source from Cameroon.
NAMA’s General Manager, Surveillance, Nwankwo Francis, explained what happened to THISDAY on Wednesday.
“NAMA operates solely on generators but because of the violence sometimes we may not put on the generators, although it rarely happens. But when NAMA is unable to operate the remote stations due to insecurity at the Maiduguri area, pilots may decide to go to Yaoundé, Cameroon.”
Francis also said VHF radio could at best cover 200 nautical miles as it operates with line of sight.
“In order to overcome the limitation of radio coverage we adopted what we call Remote Controlled Air to Ground (RCAG) which takes the communication to the satellite system. This is what is done to extend the communication range to master stations or relay stations where the message is taken from the satellite to the ground where it is boosted and sent to the receiver,” Francis explained.
These master stations are located in Sokoto, Maiduguri, Ilorin, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Jos, Wukari and other parts of the country.
In spite of this challenge, the agency in the first half of this year earned over N2 billion from over flyer charges, recording an increase of 12 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Nigeria’s airspace is known in international aviation circles as Kano Flight Information Region (FIR) but for convenience NAMA divided the airspace into two: the Lagos Flight Information Region and Kano Flight Information Region.
While Lagos takes care of the southern part of the country, Kano takes care of the coverage of the northern part.
“To control the north and the south we have area control centres (ACC). A controller in Lagos accounts for any aircraft in the southern airspace as far as Obudu in terms of communication and surveillance at the height of 290,000 feet and beyond. The same with Kano which accounts for all the flights in the northern airspace until the aircraft leaves the country’s airspace,” the General Manager added.