Apprehension as controllers embark on warning strike, slow traffic

  • NAMA working to resolve crisis, airlines cry out
  • How Effiong’s death triggered controllers’ action

 

 

Passengers travelling within the country yesterday were subjected to delays which in some cases led to flight cancellation as air traffic controllers embarked on a warning strike.

They are to do this by slowing down traffic flow, placing departure time by 20 minutes on domestic flights at the four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt, and Kano.

The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the organization in which air traffic controllers work is holding an emergency meeting to resolve the impasse and ensure all the demands of the controllers are met.

A top official of the agency told Aviation Metric that some of the demands are being worked on including others that are not in the demands they tabled before the management.

The decision for their action was as a result of the death of an air traffic controller, Aniekan Inuk Effiong who reportedly slumped while on duty in the wee hours of Monday and died shortly after.

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A control tower helps aircraft in flight separation

 

The controller who was said to be in his early 40’s slumped while at his duty post at the approach radar of the Lagos airport.

The situation led to an emergency meeting convened by the umbrella body of air traffic controllers, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

The executive council met yesterday to discuss extensively the state of air traffic operations vis- a vis their collective survival within the system.

They averred that the air traffic control system and operations in Nigeria have been skewed and operated with complete disregard to the well-being of controllers.

Their petition which was made available to New Telegraph decried the actions of the managers of the system that have consistently refused to act in good faith in order to reverse the ugly situation, resulting in one death too many.

They noted that despite all entreaties from the executive, “no action seems to be initiated to resolve any of the issues, hence we are constrained to use any other means at our disposal to register and send out our frustration with the system”.

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Issuing a strike warning, the group further stated, “Commencing from 0600 UTC today, 23rd November 2021 ALL ATC units nationwide should operate flow control”.

“All departures should be spaced at 20 minutes intervals. All international flights are exempted. All ATCOs should endeavor to be on high alert should there be a need to escalate this exercise beyond flow control, we are ready to further such actions”.

They disclosed that the exercise would be for two days and will be strictly executed at the four major airports with strict coordination from adjacent aerodromes before any start-up is issued.

The executive solicited maximum cooperation in order to get our message out loud and clear.

Meanwhile, airlines have been reporting delays as a result of the scaling down traffic flow; a situation that has put passengers on the edge over delays and in some cases cancellations.

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Accountable Manager of Dana Air, Mr. Obi Mbanuzo said the carrier’s 7:00 Port-Harcourt flight was number 20 in the sequence.

 

Lagos airport control tower

His words, “Our Owerri of 7:30 am is currently number 12 in the sequence. An Arik who is number three has just been told not to expect startup clearance before 9:40 am in an hour! We’re calling all our passengers right now to inform them of delays we are going to be having as a result of the situation”.

This came to many operators as a rude shock as the short notice from controllers did not give them the time to relay the situation to already booked passengers and other prospective passengers.

They noted that this would have huge economic implications for the industry, urging NAMA to work with the unions to resolve this immediately.

Wole Shadare