Over six airports in the country will be fortified with new Navigational Aids as part of the efforts of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to provide safe and efficient air traffic operations across the country.
With the approval of the six airports, no fewer than 12 airports will benefit from the upgrade at the end of the day, since the agency will be replacing the older equipment with new ones at various airports.
This revelation was made by the Managing Director, NAMA, Engr. Abdusalam Ibrahim while speaking with aviation journalists at NAMA corporate headquarters in Lagos recently.
Engr. Abdulsalam informed that that Federal Government has approved installation of new Navigational Aids in six airports in the country, stressing that the installations will boost operations and create better, improved and safety of airspace.
Engr. Abdusalam explained that NAMA after replacing the navigational aids in these six airports, the ones which were there and are in working condition will be installed in other airports to enhance the system “So what we are looking to is to bring our system up. The one that will be removed will be taking to a station that doesn’t have something that is working well”
“The one that is taken from Lagos can be used in another station for better performance. Though government has approved for six airports but what we are doing is like replacing 12 airports. At the end of the day, what we are going to be impacting is not just on the six airports but all the other airports”.
“The NAVAID in Lagos is working very well and by the time we take it out and put in a new one, the one that is there will be taking to another station that is not working well” The NAMA boss also explained that a contract for the provision of facilities that will enhance communication between pilots and controllers through SMS known as Controller–pilot data link communications (CPDLC), has been signed between NAMA and SITA and will commence operations in June this year.
He said it was another alternative to voice communication which is expected to tackle issues where voice network was not too good in the country and to cover the oceanic region like Lagos and Niger Delta.
Abdusalam also explained that the module-S Data link was in advance stage and will soon be activated to provide information to the aircraft from the controller at TRACON.
He announced that NAMA was in an advance stage of deploying multilatration in the gulf of Guinea after survey and discussion adding that it was awaiting its approval for its deployment for a safer operation.
According to Abdusalam, a lot of new air routes have been established to reduce flight time, fuel consumption among others while a PBN regional route has also been established with the training of 40 PBN professionals while another 40 will be trained soon for the total coverage of the country.
He announced that the Kano safe tower project that has lingered on for a very long time will be completed soon and put into use in the next two months. “Kano air traffic operations will move to a new control tower with their new facilities in place”
He said that NAMA has taken over the provision of air navigation services at Kebbi, Dutse, Bonny Island aerodrome , Forcados Aerodrome and Bauchi airports while the federal government has cleared the debt on the TRACON support services owed Thales.
He explained that NAMA in houseengineers have been running the TRACON system effectively since January this year adding that the challenges remained the spare parts to maintain the facilities. He explained that paucity of funds has been the greatest challenge of the agency which has hindered it from carrying out some of its programmes.
Abdulsalam said NAMA was working with other agencies especially NCAA towards achieving a successful ICAO safety audit for a proper event.
On the debt owned by some airlines, the NAMA boss said that a two-prong approach is being considered for the recovery of several hundreds of millions in local and hard currencies being owed the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) by domestic airlines.
The first- A consultant is being considered to handle the reconciliation of the debts owed NAMA by Arik Air, the airline with the highest/huge debts profile.
However, there is a hitch in this because the said Consultant is the same that currently handles Arik. The question arising therefrom is- If finally given the nod by the Ministry of Aviation to carry out the reconciliation of Arik debts with NAMA, will the Consultant not compromise his job in favour of Arik ? This is why some industry watchers prefer the engagement of an independent Accounting/Financial Consultant to do the job instead of the one that is currently working for Arik Air.
The second approach being considered by NAMA Management is the reconciliation meeting between the Agency and the umbrella body of all the other local airlines- Airline Operators of Nigeria [AON] in a bid to look at the debts profile of all its member airlines in order to fast-track recovery of their historical and overlapping debts. Arik Air is not a member of AON.
On why the Agency has not deem it fit to withdraw the provision of navigation services to the debtor airlines since the Agency spent money to purhase and service navigational aids and also pay staff salaries from the internally generated revenue without subventions from the Federal Government for salaries and other allowances, the NAMA boss said it would be unwise to withdraw services because it is when they are operating and making money that both sides can talk of reconciliation and payment, “ when they are not in business, where will they have the money to offset their debts”.
In addition, he explained that one has to consider the inconveniences such action would cause air travellers, who one way or the other would have made pre- payment for their flights and arranged for their schedule business plan at their destinations.
Engineer Abdulsalam also noted that solutions to issues such as this was better resolved through a ‘ round table approach’ rather than applying sanctions.
Engr. Abdulsalam equally expressed joy over the recent calibration of their Navaids, saying that the issue of whether they are working or not have now been laid to rest.
He said “If the users of those facilities come out and say this thing is not ok, then I have a very serious problem. The major users of our facilities are the airlines, that is the pilots and if you observe, I have not had any of them to come to say that our systems, the way some people are trying to portray it are really bad”
“We have those people who have been invested with powers to check those things and tell us and everybody whether they are ok or not. Those are the people that do calibration. They were here recently; they did calibration of 198 and all the aids they calibrated were ok. We have certificate to that effect. When they check your aids, it is not just enough to check them, but they will also give you paper work to certify that they are ok. So all those discussions in the past, that this aid is not good, that aid is not good have been laid to rest because the person who is competent enough to check has come to check”, Abdulsalam added.
The NAMA MD who concurred that they are not perfect said “Am not saying that we are perfect but whether these things are there or not, we are trying as much as possible to see how we can provide those services that will help us to continue to have safe and efficient air traffic operations in this country”.