Passengers Stranded As Air Traffic Controllers Embark On Warning Strike Over Poor Working Conditions

Abayomi Agoro, President, NATCA

 

…initiates flow control

 

Posted by Sade Williams

Passengers were for some hours,  stranded across Nigeria’s airports on Tuesday, as Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) across the country embarked on a two day warning strike where they will initiate flow control, over poor working conditions and  incessant death of staff over inadequate staffing at the department.

The action is coming after another ATC, Mr. Aniekan Effiong Inuk, died in the early hours of Monday November 22, 2021 , on duty.

Some airlines have sent messages of flight delays and adjustments to their customers who were already at the airports while some have cancelled flights outright blaming the action of ATCs.

For instance, a Green Africa Airways flight scheduled to depart Lagos for Akure at 1.34 pm was first cancelled, then rescheduled to 4.45 pm and then another notice of delay was sent to customers.

“Flight 318 from QOW to AKR scheduled for 23 Nov 2021 04:45:00 has been cancelled. This is due to an ongoing industrial action by Air Traffic Controllers. We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause you.”, the message to passengers read.

“Please be notified that your flight 307 from AKR to LOS will be delayed due to an industrial action by Air Traffic Controllers at some major Airports in the country today.”, another message reads.

According to the Controllers, the ATC system and operations in Nigeria has been skewed and operated with complete disregard to the well-being of ATCOs, adding that the managers of the system have consistently refused to act in good faith in order to reverse the ugly situation, resulting in one-death too many.

They added that  despite all entreaties from them, 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.

“That commencing from 0600 UTC today, 23rd November 2021,  ATC units nationwide should operate flow control. That ALL departures should be spaced at 20 minutes interval. That all international flights are exempt. That all ATCOs should endeavour to be on high alert should there be a need to escalate this exercise beyond flow control, we are ready to further such actions.  That this exercise will 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”.

Speaking further in a statement titled: An SOS On Poor Air Traffic Control Working Conditions And Staffing, signed by Abayomi Agoro, President of the association and Rev. Agbonlahor Felix, general secretary,  said Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) rose from an emergency meeting conveyed over the tragic, painful and avoidable exit of one of our diligent and dedicated colleague Mr. Aniekan Effiong Inuk in the early hours of Monday November 22, 2021. 

He noted that the council observed that within the last two years, Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association has lost nine of her members on active service due to stress related health complications which seem associated with poor working conditions and inadequate staffing. 

“Several appeals to management and other stakeholders in the industry and inactions by appropriate managers on communiqués from the Association’s past Annual General Meetings, had failed to address the issues. 

“The death of Mr. Aniekan Effiong Inuk on active duty at Abuja airport whose sad event is not unconnected with unavailability of operational vehicle to move him to a hospital in record time amongst others is one too many. Hence, Air Traffic Controllers are embarking on a three (3) hours flow control for two days, 23rd and 24th November, 2021 from 0600UTC to 0900UTC to register our displeasure and call the attention of relevant authorities and the public to quickly address our concerns without further delay. 

The Association demands, as a matter of urgency, that NAMA management and relevant authorities should immediately do the following:

  1. That fully dedicated operational vehicles be provided to Air Traffic Control for the four major airports in Nigeria (Abuja Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano) and to any other airport where ATC operational vehicle is critically needed.
  2. That ATC Operational rooms are provided with adequate and quality ATC operational chairs and headsets.
  3. That at least 500 ATCOs be recruited to address the critical dearth in ATC manpower within the next two years starting with 70 recruits within the next three (3) months.
  4. Approve and implement a 500% upward review of the annual ATC medical allowance to enable ATCOs carry out comprehensive medical assessment among others.
  5. That all Air Traffic controllers be enrolled in an enhanced comprehensive health and life insurance schemes that will meet their health needs. 
  6. That a standard medical emergency kits be provided at all ATC units and a yearly Health Safety Environment (HSE) training programs for ATCOs be conducted.
  7. That all ATC communication facilities and equipment, most especially,  the VHF radios and SATCOM links be holistically rectified in other to address the perennial communication problems encountered in Nigerian airspace.
  8. That the staff deployed to ATC from other departments who have been stagnated on the same grade level for over seven  years be placed on their appropriate grade levels having fulfilled all requirements to be Air Traffic Controllers.
  9. That all appropriate managements should immediately approve and implement an upward review of the remunerations of contract ATCOs to make for them to earn Aerodrome and Approach rating allowances.
  10. That the appropriate management should immediately liaise with the Federal Ministry of Aviation and other relevant government bodies to correct the anomalies observed in the recently approved ATC Scheme of Service to allow for implementation in a bid to eliminate the stagnation of Air Traffic Controllers. 
  11. That the appropriate management should immediately liaise with the Federal Ministry of Aviation and relevant government bodies to ensure ATCOs retire with their full monthly salary as pension. 

“Consequent on the above submissions, the association  gives an ultimatum of two weeks to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) commencing from the date of this press release for the above demands to be addressed otherwise we cannot guarantee industrial harmony. 

“We want to advise all our members to remain calm as no stone would be left unturned until our demands are fully addressed.”, they said.

 

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