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  • Airports proliferation, others cause controllers’ shortage



Nigeria’s air traffic shortage may be a thing of the past as more than 100 controllers are to be engaged, this is coming as the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has concluded plans to arrest the dearth of air traffic controllers as the agency is set to recruit additional controllers.

According to the agency, about 40 controller cadets are undergoing training at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria in a bid to fill the expected vacuum in the next six years.

Managing Director of NAMA, Mr. Lawrence Pwajok made the disclosure at the weekend at the 51st Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), held in Ibadan, Oyo State

Lagos airport control tower

According to Pwajok, the management had envisaged a gap in the number of ATCOs and had put in place a plan to recruit at least 100 personnel between 2022 and 2028.

The proliferation of aerodromes across the country has been attributed to the dearth of air traffic controllers in the nation’s aviation industry.

Nigeria currently has over 26 airports and continuous building of airports by state governors would continue to overstretch the few air traffic controllers, as most of the facilities are handed to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and NAMA, despite the low traffic they record.

Controller staffing has fallen nearly 10 percent since 2010, the NAMA missed its hiring goals for the last seven years, and there are currently more controllers eligible to retire today than are currently in the pipeline to replace them.

The ongoing training of 40 cadets, NAMA said was apart from the 100 personnel planned for the agency by 2028.

Pwajok who was represented at the occasion by Mr. Jubril Haske, the Director of Operations of the agency said that several of the current controllers would retire from the system by 2028.

He added that NAMA management had absorbed additional six controllers trained by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) into the agency to address the expected shortage.

He said: “Management is aware of the current and impending shortage of air traffic controllers due to retirement, death, and unrelenting increase in the number of airports around the country.

“Management is also aware of the pressure that shortage has been exerting and may further exerting on your members. Let me assure you that we are already working to ensure that the situation does not become an emergency.

“Presently, a Basic ATC Course is running in NCAT Zaria for 40 cadets and very soon, another set will resume as soon as Zaria has space. This is besides efforts at obtaining approval to recruit additional 100 Air Traffic Controllers for strategic replacement of ATCOS that will retire from service up to 2028.”

Besides, Pwajok stated that NAMA had trained at least 36 Air Traffic Controller Officers (ATCOs) in various courses and countries in the last six months.

The breakdown of the training indicated that 16 controllers were trained in Basic Procedure Design and Airspace Planning in Cairo, Egypt in the first quarter of 2022, while an additional 12 were trained in Nairobi, Kenya in Search and Rescue Mission Operation within the same period.

Also, eight ATCOs traveled to the Czech Republic for the Multilateration (MLAT) operational training in the first quarter of 2022.

Pwajok added that as part of the requirements for the development of capacity for the production of maps and charts including Visual Flight Rules (VFR) charts, some of the agencies just returned from Cairo for training.

He stated that these were tailored towards achieving seamless conduct of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) for the country.

According to Pwajok, NAMA had also trained 16 ATCOS in Phase Two of the Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) in Paris, France, while an additional 20 are slated for training in Cairo in the next two months.

He also said that an additional 12 controllers were set to undergo the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinators’ Training course in Nairobi, Kenya before the end of the year.

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