NAMA Looking Into Possibility Of Doing Calibration Business – Abdulsalam | Independent Newspapers Limited
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NAMA Looking Into Possibility Of Doing Calibration Business – Abdulsalam

Posted: May 22, 2015 at 2:24 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The Managing Director of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Engr.  Ibrahim Abdulsalam at a recent media chat speaks on why the agency did not ground airlines indebted to the organisation, its plan to do calibration business and the payment of the debts owed Messrs Thales SA of France, the contractor that handled the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) project and several issues. Correspondent, Abel Orukpe was there. Excerpts:

What has NAMA done to reconcile accounts with indebted airlines and why didn’t NAMA ground the operations of these airlines?

Managing Director of NAMA, Engr. Ibrahim Abdulsalam

Managing Director of NAMA, Engr. Ibrahim Abdulsalam

One of the things the former Aviation Minister, Mrs Stella Oduah did was to get a third party to reconcile the debts to everybody’s satisfaction and work out the modalities for payment. That is the reason I have not given out the actual debt figures. These airlines are Nigerian carriers and they are a part of the system. The people really affected are not the ones that had problem .Nobody flies on

credit, you have to pay for the ticket. If we ground the airlines, people will be affected. At the end of the day those that will have the problem are the major users of airlines’ services. They are the people that are badly affected because some people might have planned their trip for the next one month and then you hold them back because the airline is not flying. This will affect business in the country. If we could work things out amicably, it would go a long way to solve the problem. After that problem of accumulated debts, we now use the pay-as-you-go method. Even at that, some of them are still having issues, but we have to try and manage the situation not for their sake but for the larger interest of the country. We really have to look at that for a lot of problems are not solved by confrontation and threat. We should be able to look at each other’s interest and find a way to mend fences. On Arik Air’s debt, we tried to resolve it by using a consultant. The consultant was arranged by the Federal Government. But somewhere along the line, the consulting firm disclosed that it had been working for  Arik prior to the time. That is what has slowed down the process. If the consultant had no ties with Arik, the process (of reconciling the debts) would have been on.

What is the cost of providing navigation aids for airports in the country?

Actually, the cost was published some time back because it was awarded by the federal government. It was published in some papers and one or two people sent freedom of information request for information on that. This is something that was inherited and we are trying to make the best of it. I want us to also look at it from this perspective. One of the major issues is to see how we can put these facilities on ground, especially when it is coming from the government. Whatever it might cost them, what matters to us is to make the best of them. And it may interest you to know that even though we are getting them for just six airports by the time we put the navigation aids in the six airports, I can assure you that it will affect all the other airports.

How? The Navigational aids in Lagos are working very well. By the time we take the ones in Lagos out and put new ones that are there to another station that does not have something that is working well. The one in Lagos can be used to make another station work better. Where we are headed is a situation in which we will just be replacing six airports but what we are going to impact upon are not just six airports but all the other airports in the country. For us, that is very exciting because it is another opportunity for us to bring our system to another level.

What did it cost NAMA to calibrate the navaids in the country by ASECNA?

The exact figure will be made available as soon as possible. The Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar’s (ASECNA) people charges per flying hour. But usually, at the end of the day they will go back to their country and collate all the hours and send the bill to us. When they are here, we pay for the fuel, their hotel accommodation and some other logistics. Now, when they go back, they look at the whole hours they flew, collate, take cost of fuel and hotel. Whatever is left after all the deductions is what we are going to pay to them. These are not hidden costs; you can access what different parts of the world charge to do calibration. Meanwhile, we are looking forward to how we can acquire the calibration capability because it is something we need to do for ourselves. We are working on it and we believe very soon we will get to that point where we will be doing it ourselves and possibly do business with it also. It takes ASECNA such a long time to come here because there are so many people queuing up for them. Besides, the security challenge in Nigeria did not help matters. Some of them believe that the whole of the country is engulfed by the Boko Haram crisis. For them to move around, like this trip to Nigeria they didn’t want to go to the Northern part of the country because they said their insurance would not cover that area. At times again, some other things happen. Initially, we were hoping that they will finish the calibration then come to Lagos for a press conference. They were supposed to have spent a day in Lagos. Unfortunately when they were about to leave Uyo, the people in the host community had issues with the management of the hotel where they stayed and blocked the whole place. The incident kept them in the hotel and for several hours they could not move. By the time they came back, they were in a hurry to leave even though they eventually realised that their lives were not in danger.

How did NAMA pay the debts owed Messrs Thales SA of France, the contractor that handled TRACON?

After the completion of the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) project, Thales of France had to provide maintenance and spare parts needed so that any point, TRACON will run continuously. There are some things that are proprietary to them. It’s only when we have this maintenance agreement with them that we can ensure that the TRACON will work. That is how that money came about. For about three or four years, they were not paid and at the expiration of the contract last year they decided that they were not going to continue because they were owed.

Even though we made effort to make them understand that government was making arrangement to pay, they insisted that if they did not get their money they would withdraw their service which they did. However, government had made the money available and they have been taken care of.

ICAO security audit is around the corner. How prepared is NAMA?

We are working together with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). NCAA is actually the arrowhead. We are all working with the Ministry of Aviation. We have attained a level in this industry that we cannot go down. And I can assure you that the security will turn out well. Even though the bulk of security issues rest with FAAN, whatever that has to do with us will be done. Whatever way we need to support them with; we will also do that. We are all working together.

What are the challenges NAMA is facing?

There are several challenges and one of the major ones is finance. But whatever happens, we have to make do with what we have. We look at what we have and make the best of it, try to prioritise. We put very essential things in the front burner and go ahead. We don’t want to look at them as problems; we see them as things we need to do to get to the next level. It’s not as if we don’t have issues; we are taking care of those issues. Some of these have to do with labour which was in the news. It’s not as if we didn’t want to respond to the Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs). That was not the case. If the ATCs say ‘A’ today and NAMA says ‘B’, we would just be there trading words. But if we sit down and try to resolve issues even if they keep screaming and we sit with them trying to find a way to resolve the issue, it does enough for us, the flying public and the country. And that is the approach we have taken. We have issues and by the grace of God we are moving ahead and addressing them.

Can NAMA sustain itself if today the Federal Government stops giving it allocation?

We pay our salaries. Yes, there are some projects that have been given out by the Federal Government which we are trying to see how we can complete. But the difference between NAMA and the Federal Government is that the government has a pool where it can take some money. If the government goes and takes N6 billion to buy something it doesn’t really feel, NAMA cannot take N6 billion. We can take charge of our resources, activities and continue to run our operations but what we need to do is to be able to plan and prioritise. And even for us we know we are getting to that point.

Before the price of oil even dropped we were already looking ahead to when the government would say “go and be on your own.” To be honest, most of these projects we are getting money from government are projects awarded in 2005, 2009, and 2010. These are the ones we want to close. We don’t have any new projects coming from the government now. The Controller–Pilot Data Link Communications, (CPDLC), we are talking about is being done by NAMA.





There are allegations that NAMA is over-staffed. Is this true?

We are a little above 2, 000 personnel. It is nowhere near 4, 000. We are trying as much as possible to make the best of our staff strength. One of ATCs’ complaints is that they don’t have enough staff. The engineers too have the same complaint. Now, if we are at that level and somebody is telling us that we have up to 4, 000 staff don’t you think that we have a problem? Apart from that, we have new airports springing up. They are not going to man themselves; we have to send people to man those places. To be honest, if we had 4,000 staff they will go round and will be able to provide all the services, where we need them. We cannot manage a staff strength of 4, 000 with what we generate at the moment. We have a moderate workforce and at each point in time when we look at our workforce for instance the issue of ATC, we have people internally

who have qualifications to work as ATCs. Instead of bringing in new people, we will do internal advertisement. They come in; some of them are there now almost 40 of them are being looked at. Then they will go through a screening process; they will be sent to Zaria and they will become ATCs. The engineers don’t have that luxury because we don’t have people that are engineers that are employed in other places. So because of that we may eventually have to look at how we can address the issues of engineers. The ATCs are not the only ones. If I give you N1 million today, by tomorrow you will say N1.5 million will be much better. It is a natural thing. I don’t want to look at them as people who are never satisfied. What I feel and tried to make them see is what can be sustained. We need to do what is sustainable that will not have a negative effect.