Air traffic controllers under the aegis of Nigeria Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) have condemned the incessant threat to close the nation’s airspace by aviation workers whenever there is industrial action, saying that nobody can close the airspace but disgruntled workers could withdraw their services.
The controllers made this known at the weekend in a statement signed by the President and General Secretary of NATCA, Victor Eyaru and Banji Olawode respectively, stating that the association was embarrassed by the uncontrolled and careless threats to shut down the Nigerian airspace being issued by various bodies within the aviation industry as a means of settling disputes.
NATCA said such threats had portrayed to the public that the Nigerian air traffic controllers were preparing to go on strike, but ironically the controllers may not even have the knowledge of the dispute in question.
“Air Navigation Service Provision (ANSP) in Nigeria and world over revolves around the air traffic controllers making them the arrowheads of air navigation service provision which is primarily the provision of air transport service,” the controllers said.
They noted that despite the unconducive working environment, delayed training and sometimes denial of some welfare packages and high workload, the controllers have continued to provide service to ensure that flights operate safely in Nigeria.
NATCA said in spite of these shortcomings from the management of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the controllers cannot fold their arms “while some people not given the authority to speak for the association do so without its permission and thereby tainting the image of the association and its members nationwide.”
The association reiterated that no employee or group of employees can shut down the nation’s airspace, adding that air traffic controllers and other workers in the aviation sector “can only withdraw their services if industrial action warrants declaration of industrial actions.
“The Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association thereby informs the flying and general public that it has not yet declared any industrial dispute that could lead to the members withdrawing their services,” the controllers said.
The controllers therefore urged that federal government and concerned aviation agencies, including NAMA and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) to urgently address all the welfare and professional issues concerning air traffic controllers.
They requested among others, the urgent review of air traffic controllers allowances that have been pending since 2011 and beyond.
“It is a fact that controllers are the least paid in the Nigerian aviation industry despite the enormous responsibilities of ensuring air safety on their shoulders, which is only comparable to that of pilots”
The association also requested for the revisit of the request made by the since 2008 for the creation of air traffic controllers salary scale “to adequately compensate the controllers for the enormous safety critical functions they perform and the adverse health conditions exposed to while performing their duties.”