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The TRACON a project he executed stands as a legacy and a demonstration that something good can come out of “ Nazareth”. His indigenous “Inya- Akpa Management Strategy” of identifying, mentoring, managing, and deploying a pool of creative resourceful Nigerians to deliver a pioneer project like TRACON, has remained a case study at The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, a public policy and public administration school.
TRACON: The acronym for Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria Airspace is one project that has been so vilified by faceless individuals who have refused to see anything good in completing a project that has been adjudged as the best thing to have happened to Nigeria aviation in the past decade. The desperation and propaganda machinery deployed to bind half-truths will make one ask the famous Pa Awo question, in whose interest?
For the records, the TRACON project was after due process awarded to Messrs.’ Thales SA of France on 7th April 2003. The Scope of Work includes the provision of modern Air Traffic Management Systems. The initial project duration was 36 months and the coverage areas are nine sites in Nigeria out of which four sites in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt would provide Approach and Area Radar services while the remaining five sites in Maiduguri, Ilorin, Numan, Talata-Mafara and Obubra are en-route MSSR stations.
The TRACON Project was multi-tasking in view of the several deliverables of the project which includes but not limited to the provision of co-located Primary Surveillance Radar (PSR) and Monopoles Secondary Surveillance Radar (MSSR), EUROCAT C Air Traffic Management System, Voice Communication and Control Switch (VCCS), Emergency VHF, Voice Recording System, Fiber Optics, VSAT network and other ancillaries like UPS, Power systems, AMF etc.
Thales as the lead contractor was responsible for the system design and project coordination, with the support of a consortium of global and market leaders in Air Traffic Management (ATM) technology. The Radar and Euro cat Air Traffic Management systems came from Thales Air Systems of France, Voice Switches from Thales and Frequentis AG of Austria, VHF Radios from Park Air Systems of UK, Fiber Optics from SAGEM of France, VSAT equipment from ND SatCom of Germany, Power systems, back-ups and other ancillaries from Chloride and 2H Energy of France. Other components and deliverables of the project as applicable came from the local content.
Perhaps it is important that Nigerians be informed that Thales the firm that was the lead contractor of the total radar coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) is a leading World-class firm based in France and a key player in assuring the security of citizens, infrastructure and nations.
In the world whenever critical decisions need to be made on aerospace safety, defence and security, Thales has a role to play because of their understanding of the Critical Decision Chain that helps customers to decide and act in a timely fashion to obtain the best outcomes.
Thales’s rich history goes back well over a century 1893, and with longstanding partner Alcatel-Lucent it is a major world player with exceptional technological capabilities and leader in mission-critical information systems serving three markets: Defence, Aerospace, and Security.
It is the supplier of French Air force radar for its Air base in Lyon Mont-Verdun which is one of the cornerstones of France’s airspace surveillance capability, with guaranteed operational availability of 98 per cent, and information system security for the radar base. “This order for a new-generation radar confirms the trust that the French armed forces continue to place in the radar systems developed by Thales.
As part of the firm’s resolution to promote transparency with business concerns globally Thales established a formal corporate responsibility policy with a strong focus on prevention of corruption. The policy enjoys the support of the group’s most senior management and is continuously adjusted and updated to remain relevant in an evolving and increasingly complex environment.
However, contrary to the alleged fraud, a combined team of the anti-graft agencies and the security agencies has conducted due diligence and cleared the Management of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency of any under-hand dealings as all that were expected to be supplied as components for the continued maintenance of the equipment supplied and installed were duly supplied to the letter according to what were contained in the contract agreement signed by all parties involved.
A recent classified report states that “Services rendered in the contract were executed according to the contract terms, even when payments were not made as specified. All payments made were made against a certificate of satisfactory completion of the job issued by the Federal Ministry of Aviation.”
To ensure that Nigerian Airspace management Agency meets the operational needs of the new technology infrastructure Thales supported with additional trainings for Nigerian Engineers and given the unfortunately increasing threat levels and security considerations facing the world, provision of additional redundancy and disaster recovery capabilities to further secure the system in Nigeria was made.
Since The Technical Support Service Agreement (TSSA) was executed and in place NAMA has not paid any additional fee and the technical agreement is beyond warranties as substantial discounts were secured for the support services agreement.
The Technical support services agreement provision for the training of engineers has been followed to the latter and spare parts have been equally supplied to maintain the project.
Regrettably, the entire trump up charge against the project has since been proved to be politically motivated and entirely false and misleading to the public. The claim that “Only one generator was supplied to each of the Secondary Radar Stations instead of two as provided for in the schedule of supply of the main TRACON Contract Agreement” was totally false as all appropriate generators have been delivered as per the contract. In the case where PHCN power is insufficient, NAMA has ensured correct mains power or alternative power to the sites.
More curious is the allegation that there is no evidence of supply of two numbers of backup VHF RADIOS for Lagos and Kano as stipulated under the scope of schedule of the main TRACON Contract Agreement. Whereas Thales delivered the integrated radio positions which can be seen and inspected on site.
The Chloride UPS and Automatic Voltage Regulators (AVRs) provided are suitable for the application contrary to speculations, .infact only one of the UPS has been replaced by NAMA and that was before the SSA was in place. All UPSs and AVRs supplied under the contract are covered under the TSSA.It should be noted that the often cited figure of 700,000 Euros covers the support of all of the ancillary systems provided by Thales, including the UPSs, over the full five years period of the SSA.
A technical review of the project component reveals that the simulator software,the operational software are working at optimum level and The SIM hardware and software are fully covered by the TSSA. The booster radar and secondary radar stations at Talata Mafara, Maiduguri, Numan, Ilorin and Obubra is operational and the suppliers have further offered full support to assist in containing the power failures with solutions as a result of learning’s from the project and the environment.
The strip printers and Billing Management System (BMS) in the centers are working and functioning as required in Lagos under phase 1 of the main contract.. It is instructive to emphsise that all services required under the SSA have been provided in full. The payments received by Thales are entirely in accordance with the Contract and have been made against a “Certificate of Satisfactory Completion of the Job.
One key aspect that Nigeria has benefited which cannot be quantified is the area of world class training, NAMA has trained over 250 Engineers and Air Traffic Controllers in the course of the project as part of the Support Services Agreement and there are provision for training of additional 66 engineers before the end of the agreement.
The members of Aviation Round Table (ART) led by Mr. Sam Akerele, the group’s secretary general, who visited the Lagos site of TRACON described the new radar as a state of the art equipment that could compete favourably with those in developed countries of Europe and America, adding that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) should be commended for the efficient and optimal performance of its radar and communication system.
The greatest success of the project was Nnamdi Udoh’s ability to work under six Ministers of Aviation who were not part of the dream across a seven years period and weathered the turbulence of both chambers of the national assembly and cultivated them to buy into the project, is a rare feat yet to be equaled. Indeed the project should be commended and adapted as role model for other government project in the transformation agenda.