The Nigerian aviation industry is currently experiencing shortage of Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs), with not more than 350 ATCs manning the 27 airports, aerodromes and airstrips in the country, checks by Daily Trust have shown. ATCs are the personnel responsible for the safe and orderly flow of air traffic across the world. With over 100,000 flights taking off and landing worldwide per day, the ATCs are responsible for safe air navigation and prevention of collisions.

October 20, every year has been set aside to celebrate individual ATCs, wherever they work or under whatever conditions they work, who strive each minute to give the utmost in service to the flying public to bring them safely and efficiently to their destinations.

But stakeholders have decried the challenge of inadequate ATCs manning all the airports in the country. Daily Trust reports that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) manages about 22 airports, while there are other private aerodromes and airstrips requiring the services of ATCs on a daily basis. According to the executive summary of flight operations of NCAA for June, 2019, domestic airlines operated 5,323 flights, which implies that on the average, there are about 170 to 180 daily domestic flights apart from the international flights.

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Currently, 27 foreign airlines fly into the country on a daily basis with some of them doing between two to four daily flights. Experts say the number of ATCs manning Nigerian airports is a far cry to what is obtained in advanced countries, especially the US, where there are 43,290 average daily flights with more than 14,000 ATCs managing traffic at many of the 700 facilities.

President of the Nigeria Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Abayomi Agoro, lamented the shortage of ATCs in the system, saying the 350 personnel manning all the airports in the country were too inadequate and below the standard stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Agoro said, “What ICAO stipulated is about 700 ATCs, and as at that time, I don’t think we have up to 27 airports and airfields as we have right now, and some states are still trying to build new airports. So, it means that the less than 350 ATCs is inadequate, and we also try as much as possible to tell the government to increase the retirement age of ATCS from 60 to 65 in order to bring a kind of balance.”

He, however, lauded the management of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) for recruiting more ATCs in recent years, pointing out that Nigeria’s airspace was one of the safest in the world. The General Secretary of NATCA, Banji Olawode, said, “What could be done to address the shortage which we have suggested severally is the annual recruitment and timely training of at least 50 ATCs for the next 10 years to bridge the gap, and the annual attrition due to retirements and other natural causes.”

A competent source at NAMA confirmed to our correspondent that there were plans to deploy more ATCs into the system, saying, “There are two batches of ATC cadets in Zaria at the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT); they have finished their training actually. “I can confidently tell you that there is plan to employ more people to replace those who are leaving the system.”

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