NAMA Confirms Poor Communication in Nigeria’s Airspace

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Fola Akinkuotu

Chinedu Eze

The Managing Director of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Captain Fola Akinkuotu, has said despite the efforts to improve airspace radio communication, the system still suffers disruptions, which have impeded flight safety.

Akinkuotu made this known yesterday during the Air Traffic Controllers (ATC)/ Pilot interactive session in Lagos.

The interaction with the theme: ‘Enhancing Safety of Flight Operations’ was organised by Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) in collaboration with the Flight Crew Association of Nigeria (FCAN) and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

According to Akinkuotu, part of NAMA’s job is provision of communication in the airspace, but the agency is yet to achieve that 100 per cent.

He said: “Radio communication today is not the best. I have spent two years in NAMA, and I thought I would have fixed this problem but I haven’t. Effort is being made and we are not going to stop because any air traffic communication that is not crisply clear is a recipe for confusion.

“In the South-east region, a lot of pilots have had to step on one another and ATCs because of poor communication, and if you are foreign to the clime, that may make you categorise our airspace as unsafe.

“I work for NAMA, and part of NAMA’S job is communication but we have not achieved what we set out to do. And so we are asking feedback from the users. We are not afraid of criticism but we enjoin you to make it civil. We beg, we implore, we beseech in the interest of safety to take things seriously, and for our pilots to be more patient and understanding with the ATCs.”

Speaking in the same vein, President of NATCA, Abayomi Agoro, said commercial flight operations without communication between the pilot in the cockpit and controllers in the tower have consequences that could better be imagined.

“The present Controller-Pilot VHF Communication coverage of Nigeria’s airspace is a far cry from the required international standard, but it is still work in progress with NAMA. Over the years, it has been quite herculean task for air traffic controllers to communicate effectively with pilots.

“At the risk of sounding repetitive, it is important to mention it again that the control towers at the following locations- Kaduna, Maiduguri, Ilorin, Yola, Sokoto, Benin-city Kastina-are in very deplorable state.

“The case of Abuja tower elevator that suddenly dropped from the topmost floor to the ground is a sore point in Nigeria’s aviation industry. Even more worrisome is the threat of health hazard to ATCs who go through agony climbing 232 flights of stairs on a daily basis,” he said.

Agoro also decried the loss of revenue in foreign exchange by NAMA because aircraft now avoid the Nigerian airspace to operate in contiguous airspace.

He also decried the limited number of ATCs in the country to effectively man all the ATC units across Nigeria, which he said hampered service delivery leading to the overworking of staff, and might have safety implication.

Speaking earlier, Representative of Director General Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Director of Training, Captain Abdullahi Sidi, said the opportunity to gather the major players and positively discuss safety and proffer solutions to mitigate the problems faced in the system was commendable.