From Suleiman Idris, Lagos
The failure of air navigation equipment manufacturing giant, Thales of France to honour contractual agreement with the Federal government of Nigeria is now a source of concern as spare parts for air navigation equipment supplied by the firm cannot be accessed eight years after the completion of their installations across airports in the country.
The Total Radar Coverage (TRACON) project was initiated by a former Minister of aviation, Mrs. kema Chikwe in 2003 and completed in 2010 at the cost of 66,500,870 million euros paid by the Federal Government.
However, it emerged yesterday that eight years after the installation of the equipment across airports in Nigeria, they are showing symptoms of imminent collapse with no remedy in sight.
At a stakeholders interactive forum in Lagos on Tuesday, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) discloses that it could not access spare parts from the manufacturer, Thales of France as stipulated in the contractual agreement.
The agency’s Director of Safety Electronics and Engineering Services, Engr. Farouk Umar told stakeholders that efforts to source spare spare parts for the replacement of bad equipment from the manufacturer has proved abortive.
The situation he said has entered it fourth year, after the project came on stream in 2014.
Farouk said the agency has been operating the equipment without spares from the manufacturers, adding that the facility was also due for upgrade to the state-of-the-art.
He urge the Federal Government to prevail on Thales of France to adhere strictly to the terms of contract as entered into with Nigeria, stressing that it was expensive to procure navigational equipment for operations by the agency.
However, in his address, Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, said enhance air safety and radio communications between pilots and control towers within the country’s airspace is ongoing with the installation of a Very High Frequency (VHF) radios across 17 airports in Nigeria.
The airports include Owerri, Enugu, Kaduna, Ibadan, Katsina, Sokoto, Maiduguri and Akure.
The rest are Asaba, Dutse, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Gombe and Calabar airports.
He said the installation of VHF radios in 17 airports for approach and aerodrome control was part of the short term approach of the current management in the agency.
He affirmed the installation would further address the radio communication challenge in the system and urged all users of its facilities to commit to their obligations regularly in order to improve safety in the airspace.
NAMA is also progressively installing navigational aids equipment in over 12 airport locations.
The navigational aids installed in the 12 airports according to him were VHF Omnidirectional Range and Distance Measuring Equipment (VOR/DME), Instrument Landing System (ILS) and Category III ILS for Lagos and Abuja airports, which would be installed soon.
Also, NAMA in collaboration with the Edo State Government is installing an ILS in Benin Airport, using the agency’s equipment.
“We are doing everything possible to keep it so. We are sure that the replacement and upgrade of this system will soon commence. In addition to this, significant works towards installation of Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) surveillance system for the Gulf of Guinea for surveillance and control of low level flights will commence in few weeks.
“Let me remind us that provision and maintenance of airspace infrastructure and the required personnel is expensive. I will appeal to government to continue give the necessary supports to our drive to re-engineer the CNS/ATM facilities in NAMA within the shortest time possible and our customers commit fully to their obligations to the agency at all times.” he said further.
A keynote address by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika noted that the policy direction of President Muhammadu Buhari is to provide enabling environment for investments in sectors that stimulated economic diversification and aviation was key as an intermodal means of transportation.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Sabiu Zakari, he noted that a safe airspace for seamless connectivity and free flow of domestic, regional and international air traffic is essential for capital investment into any economy.