The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) over the years has faced the challenge of inadequate staff, especially in the technical area. For example, there have always been complaints about the paucity of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC), engineers, radio and communication personnel and other technical personnel.
ATC has warned severally that as the seasoned hands are retiring, there may not be enough personnel to take over because adequate training was not being given to the young staff recruited by the agency.
Besides, there is no other area where inventions and innovations are taking place faster in the whole gamut of the aviation sector than in airspace management. There have been efforts to improve communication in the airspace, landing and take-off of flights and en-route radio communication, adopting the latest technology and progressing on the achievement already made. All these are aimed at improving safety in the airspace.
The staff has to be kept abreast of this new progress. They must have to dovetail to the advances being made in that area so that they could effectively manage the airspace. So training is a sin qua non to airspace management.
In the last few years, NAMA has been able to develop systems to make it easier and safer to fly in Nigeria. The Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON), the Performance Based Navigation (PBN), the improvement in radio communication at both Kano and Lagos Flight Information Region (FIR) and the spirited work on the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) automation, which is almost completed are aiding flight safety and reducing flight time for airlines, which save thousands of litres of aviation fuel.
It is expected that the agency personnel are trained to be able to effectively man these advances being made in the agency, so there is need for a comprehensive training programme for all cadre of staff.
THISDAY learnt that in the past, there was no defined training programme, so workers were made to scheme and employ all kinds of intrigue in order to be shortlisted for training. Until recently, there have been workers in the technical areas of the agency who have spent five years without any kind of training. In the administrative areas, training is said to be at best, luxury.
Informed source told THISDAY that training was sporadic and spontaneous in the past years. It was used to appease groups of staff who rise against the management or agitate for improved welfare or threaten to embark on industrial action. But NAMA staff recently told THISDAY that things are really changing.
Managing Director of the agency, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, told THISDAY recently that the agency has adopted comprehensive training programme geared towards ensuring that all segment of the workforce benefit from continuous training in the agency.
â€œWe have done increased training for our staff on search and rescue. We have completed training for a lot of our management staff in ASCON (Administrative Staff College of Nigeria). We invited US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to come and do a training here for our staff and also from those of the West African sub region on accident and incident investigation and interpretation based on air traffic management situations.
â€œSo we have improved in a lot of training and we have provided opportunities for people to be trained and we are going to make sure that we continue to enhance training. We are going to send people in the short term to Singapore for training; we have sent some people to Kenya for training. Essentially, what we are saying is that we must improve training for our people so that they can be abreast of new technology and improve the quality of their work,â€ the Managing Director said.
A NAMA official acknowledged on Monday that the current management of the agency has streamlined a comprehensive training programme for all staff of the agency.
He told THISDAY that the first group of workers that benefitted from the raining was those on levels 15 and above; that is the management staff. That next week another batch of the administrative staff from levels 10-14 would embark on training at ASCON. For the technical staff, there is scheduled training department by department so each department chooses when it would go for the training and schedule the sequences of the training for its personnel.
â€œThe Managing Director is training everybody. Those who have benefitted from training at ASCON are levels 15 and above. Next week levels 10-14 will go to ASCON. After that levels 4-9; the management is making sure that everybody is trained.
â€œAlso department training is on-going. Each department will now schedule for training; so the general training for administrative staff is at ASCON, so the department training is done both in Nigeria and overseas,â€ the NAMA staff told THISDAY.
THISDAY also learnt that many of the NAMA personnel in the technical departments are already receiving training at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria and while some of the training would last as much as three months; others would last longer.
Industry insider told THISDAY that one of the challenges faced by aviation agencies is the relegation of training of personnel, noting that without training the workers would not be efficient in their jobs.
â€œIn NAMA the work of Air Traffic Controllers and engineers is critical. We can look at the accidents that happened in the past; some were attributed to weather, one or two were due to miscalculation by air traffic control and some are pilot error; all these are put together as human error. Training is necessary to sharpen the minds and impart the latest knowledge in those whose jobs are critical to ensure the safety of the lives of thousands of air travellers,â€ the source said.