By Lawani Mikairu
Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers, ATCs, commenced two days disruption of early morning domestic flights across the country to press home their demands for better working conditions.
The disruption is expected to last for three hours each day between 6 am and 9 am.
The action has already affected the flight schedules of many airlines as they had to reschedule.
The action of the Traffic Controllers is coming after another ATC, Mr Aniekan Effiong Inuk, died in the early hours of Monday, November 22, 2021 while on duty at the Nnamidi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
A statement issued by the Controllers yesterday read: “That commencing from 0600 UTC today, 23rd November 2021, ATC units nationwide should operate flow control. That all departures should be spaced at 20 minutes intervals. That all international flights are exempted.”
“That all ATCOs should endeavour to be on high alert should there be a need to escalate this exercise beyond flow control, we are ready to further such actions. That this exercise will be for two days and will be strictly executed at the four major airports with strict coordination from adjacent aerodromes before any start up is issued”.
Speaking further on the grievances of the Controllers and action to be taken in another statement titled: An SOS On Poor Air Traffic Control Working Conditions And Staffing, signed by Abayomi Agoro, President of the association and Rev. Agbonlahor Felix, General Secretary, the union said: “Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) rose from an emergency meeting conveyed over the tragic, painful and avoidable exit of one of our diligent and dedicated colleague Mr Aniekan Effiong Inuk in the early hours of Monday, November 22, 2021.”
“The council observed that within the last two years, Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association has lost nine of her members on active service due to stress-related health complications which seem associated with poor working conditions and inadequate staffing. “
“Several appeals to management and other stakeholders in the industry and inactions by appropriate managers on communiqués from the Association’s past Annual General Meetings had failed to address the issues. “
“The death of Mr Aniekan Effiong Inuk on active duty at Abuja airport whose sad event is not unconnected with the unavailability of operational vehicle to move him to a hospital in record time amongst others is one too many.”
“Hence, Air Traffic Controllers are embarking on a three (3) hours flow control for two days, 23rd and 24th November, 2021 from 0600UTC to 0900UTC to register our displeasure and call the attention of relevant authorities and the public to quickly address our concerns without further delay.”
Meanwhile, Some airlines have sent messages of flight delays and adjustments to their customers who were already at the airport while some have cancelled flights outright blaming the action on ATCs.
A Green Africa Airways flight scheduled to depart Lagos for Akure at 1.34 pm was first cancelled, then rescheduled to 4.45 pm and then another notice of delay was sent to customers.
“Flight 318 from QOW to AKR scheduled for 23 Nov 2021 04:45:00 has been cancelled. This is due to an ongoing industrial action by Air Traffic Controllers. We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause you.”, the message to passengers read.
“Please be notified that your flight 307 from AKR to LOS will be delayed due to an industrial action by Air Traffic Controllers at some major Airports in the country today.”, another message reads.
The ATCs are, amongst other demands, asking the government to “approve and implement a 500% upward review of the annual ATC medical allowance to enable ATCOs to carry out comprehensive medical assessment among other stuff.”
“That all Air Traffic controllers be enrolled in an enhanced comprehensive health and life insurance schemes that will meet their health needs. “
“That standard medical emergency kits be provided at all ATC units and yearly Health Safety Environment (HSE) training programs for ATCOs be conducted,” amongst other demands.