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Elusive radar coverage of Nigeria

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By Timothy Akintola

TRACON project eases air navigation and surveillance of Nigeria’s airspace.

The Total Coverage of Nigeria was installed in 2010 to capture aircraft in the airspace, identify them and help air traffic controllers by safely guiding the aircraft to its destination. Since it’s installation, however, the system has been ravaged by inconsistent management and endless upgrades. Reports indicated that the federal government decided to enact the comprehensive rehabilitation of the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON), signing a deal with Thales of France, the manufacturer. The scheduled TRACON upgrade which was commissioned about 12 years ago, was billed to cost about N4 billion, with which 15 percent of the money was paid.

In truth, the TRACON project has been a significant facility that have helped air navigation and surveillance within the Nigerian airspace, enabling real search and rescue operations. Prior to the FG’s decision to rehabilitate this facility, it had been faced with numerous structural problems in spares replacement, inconsistent maintenance agreement with Thales, amongst others. A year ago, Mr. Matthew Lawrence Pwajok, revealed that TRACON had a five-year maintenance pact with the manufacturer which had since elapsed. He noted that in a bid to reduce cost, NAMA had to hand over the maintenance operation to indigenous engineers, a process which he stated had saved the FG a large amount of funds.

Severing maintenance was reported to have affected TRACON’s capacities.

Mr. Pwajok, whilst talking about the project’s upgrade, noted that the TRACON upgrade which had been ongoing since 2010 was still not completed, despite it being expected to improve the facility’s efficiency and functionality of the system. He noted that with the operations becoming automated and information, issued electronically, the workload of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) and pilots. This upgrade is however proposed to cover the entire country, including the nine TRACON locations.

Further reports showed that whilst severing of the maintenance agreement might have helped the FG to save more funds, it also affected the capacities of TRACON, as numerous out modeled parts were not replaced, which led to the degradation of the system. The former Managing Director of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Captain Fola Akinkuotu also confirmed this dilapidated status quo, prior to the intervention to rehabilitate the system. While evaluating the status quo of the various pieces of equipment, he stated that the situation had witnessed an evident improvement, as compared to 2017.

NAMA Official says equipment needs continued maintenance.

On the problem of obsolete equipment, insider sources indicated that as a result of the long period that it took to install TRACON, as well as the time wasted before its operations, some of the parts were already obsolete. Thus, there have been urges for constant upgrades of the system but the new arising problem is that the spares installed have become extinct, with significant changes in the present radar system. Another NAMA official that uses the TRACON equipment noted that they had been using the equipment for a long period and it now needed turnaround maintenance. He stated that the equipment needed augmentation. It was revealed that NAMA intended to establish a new navigation center.

For efficiently delivering its services, TRACON is presently being reconsidered and upgraded. An anonymous official revealed that with the TRACON’s significant role in the airspace management, there was a need to ensure optimum performance. According to the anonymous official, there was a poignant need to rehabilitate and replace the equipment that came with the 2010 installation. He indicated that there were plans to recondition the equipment to the pre-installation state, which would make it new again. He however expressed his uncertainty as to whether the process would be completed.

Newly employed NATCA personnel have shown less motivation for work.

Further investigations also showed that in response to the complaints of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controller Association (NATCA) to ensure the employment of more controllers, government had exploited these clamors in employing new personnel that have less motivations to work and even zero intrinsic desire to learn. This has thus made it cumbersome to adapt to the training process. Reports further suggested that many of these new personnel have not shown enough discipline in abiding by directives.

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