In January, 2017, the federal government appointed Captain Fola Akinkuotu as the managing director/chief executive officer of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). In this piece, ANTHONY AWUNOR writes that his leadership in the agency has brought about positive changes which are in line with the agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration.
When Captain Fola Akinkuotu assumed office as managing director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), aviation watchers bet his antecedents would stand him in good stead.
Before his coming, NAMA had seen its fair share of management leadership at the level of chief executive officers. Whilst the verdict on their performance was mixed, they held on to a belief that Captain Akinkuotu would deliver. They did not have to wait long, for fate had laid a severe test on Akinkuotu’s path. How he handled the challenge would, inevitably, influence his ranking in the opinion of Nigerians.
In March 2017, the federal government announced the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and diversion of its traffic to Kaduna airport. After the announcement which was made by the then Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, at a world press conference in Abuja, the erstwhile Minister of State in charge of Aviation, Hadi Sirika also pledged that the project would be completed in just 6 weeks. Sirika, even threatened to resign, if the Abuja Airport runway repair was not completed in that six weeks period promised.
Consequently, Kaduna, whose facilities were suited to less activity than Abuja’s, had to be prepared to accept the passengers and cargo of the latter. With short notice and time a scarce commodity, Capt Akinkuotu orchestrated a plan which upgraded the navigation and landing aids of Kaduna, easily matching the standards present in Abuja. Rallying the staff at NAMA, he successfully installed and calibrated an Instrument Landing System (ILS), alongside associated Distance Measuring equipment (DME) to Cat II standard, in three short weeks. Said equipment is required for landing in poor weather. It was a complex effort requiring the coordination and shuttling of men and materials to disparate locations, challenging in itself but the more daunting because of the time constraints. He only arrived in late January 2017, but this was 8th March. Eventually, Kaduna airport hosted Abuja movements for six weeks.
Quick on the heels of the Kaduna triumph came a string of initiatives and programs which revealed a clear understanding of the needs and prospects of the airspace over Nigeria. With a sense of urgency, the Captain embarked on the acquisition and deployment of safety-critical navigation equipment and landing aids across the airports and air corridors of the nation.
Evidently, stakeholders in the nation’s aviation industry have applauded the efforts of the NAMA helmsman, within a very short period of time, as noticeable in the following areas:
Improvement Of Navigational Aids: In Kano, The Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport received a new CAT Doppler Very High Omnidirectional Radio Range (DVOR)/DME, as well as an ILS and DME. And the Lagos, Benin and Port Harcourt airports were not left out, each one receiving new CAT II ILS/DME too.
Capt Akinkuotu then addressed standards by ensuring that calibration of Navigation Aids across the country was according to the time sensitive recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and international best practices.
Other Equipment: In 2018, communication facilities were given a boost by the deployment of four stand-alone long range communication radios at Lagos East and Lagos West, and also, Kano East and Kano West Area Control Centres (AAC.) This was to resolve issues surrounding Remote Control Air to Ground (RCAG) communication in Nigeria’s upper airspace. The installation at once solved the problem of communication in case of Satellite failure, maintenance of Satellite, and any lowering of Satellite integrity.
Other assets acquired and set up include six IP (Internet Protocol) PABX in six stations, viz, Kaduna, Akure, Benin, Calabar, Ilorin and Enugu, all made part of a network for communication with the headquarters in Lagos, as well as VHF (Last Resort Base Station) transceivers in airports across Nigeria to augment air-to-ground and ground-to-ground communications. Man-portable radios for emergency communications were also deployed at all airports in the country, and in addition, hand-held VH-AM transceivers for monitoring.
Surveillance Equipment: In Kano, new controller work position displays and new modules were set up, while faulty modules in Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) equipment were repaired. Global Position System (GPS) receivers for MSSR system and UTC were replaced with new ones, while Radar System Electronics maintenance tool kits were acquired.
Information Communication Technology (ICT): A Storage Area Network (SAN) was deployed. A high-speed storage facility, it provides automatic back-up for all agency computers’ data for easy recovery of files and documents in the event of loss, while providing enough storage for email server services. A Local Area Network (LAN) for outstations was also deployed across 22 airports in the country, providing said airports with network resources and management capability. The development also enabled integration with Wide Area Network (WAN). A back-up solution was also achieved, to secure application data, the database and Hyper V virtual machines on tape media, with the added ability of intelligent recovery in case of breakdown.
Airspace Planning: NAMA introduced new technology in the Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures at Enugu airport, for its runways 08 and 26. At the same airport, a Very High Omni Directional Radio Range/Distance Measuring Equipment (VOR/DME) was set up for runway 08. PBN procedures were also extended to Bayelsa airport’s Runways 24 and 06. The same airport received Control Zone and Standard Instrument Departure Route (SID) and its associated Standard Instrument Arrival Route (STAR). The PBN procedures asset was also extended to Asaba airport’s Runways 11 and 29, alongside a Control Zone. As well as PBN procedures for its Runways 17 and 35, Bauchi airport also got VOR/DME procedures for same. Then there were ILS procedures for its Runway 35.
Human Capacity Development/Admin: With a keen desire for development of the human resource, Capt Akinkuotu improved upon the training regimen of staff of the agency. Air Traffic Controllers from Lagos and Kano were schooled on Controller-Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC) at the United ATS Academy, Cairo, Egypt in 2018. Senior staff of the Airspace Planning Department also received training, on the latest software concerning PBN Approaches Baro V Nav, to accord with the regional air navigation plan. Also trained were seven Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) officers, on Quality Management System, all in Cairo, Egypt. Then, 12 Air Traffic Control officers from across the nation were sent to Kenya for training on Search and Rescue Coordination. An innovative programme for exchange of Air traffic Controllers was revived. It targets officers in contiguous Flight Information Regions, and took place in Accra and Niamey.
For proper management, warehouses at the headquarters annex office were converted into offices, whilst operational quarters belonging to the agency but occupied by squatters, were retrieved. The Managing Director’s official quarters, which had been razed by a fire, was rebuilt. 19 staff of NAMA became beneficiaries of the National Housing Fund. Operational vehicles were procured, an imperative in the sustained bid to access Navigational and Landing Aids, whose locations are more often than not, remote. Across Nigeria, Secondary Radar Surveillance sites were fenced. In addition, Capt Akinkuotu did not neglect compensation of staff also, as he took steps to improve their welfare. Staff were promoted when due, and payment of severance benefits and accrued past rights, as well as furniture grant, occurred on time. The foregoing has led to a new chapter of industrial harmony at the agency
Legacy: He has been a flight engineer, a pilot, has held senior management positions at different airlines, helped launch one of Nigeria’s major airlines from scratch, was rector of the International Aviation College, Ilorin and was also director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA.) He has been in civil aviation for over forty years. His professionalism received global recognition when NAMA came out on top of scores for lowest billing error rates, among International Air Transport Association (IATA) members, in 2018. The association noted that NAMA’s error rate was less than 2%, whereas it was 30% nine years ago.
With these arrangements on ground, stakeholders in the nation’s aviation industry have urged NAMA to continue with the strategic turnaround of its facilities
The aviation experts made up of members of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) also encouraged NAMA to continue with the infrastructure strategy in place which ensures that existing and future CNS/ATM facilities are harmonised and integrated to upscale its capacity to deliver its published services
The aviation professionals gave the commendation recently in a communique issued at the end of ASRTI 2nd 2019 Quarterly Business Breakfast Meeting held at Golfview Hotel in Ikeja GRA, Lagos with the theme:
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