Furor over N500 million debt, disconnection of power supply at Kano Airport

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Flight operations across the country may be disrupted any moment from now following the threat by the Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA) at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano to down tools over disconnection of power supply to the facilities of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and staff quarters at the airport.

Alhaji Gambo Aboki Abubakar, the Airport Manager, Kano Airport for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), had cut off the power supply to NAMA facilities and staff quarters last Friday over an alleged N500 million debt by NAMA.

Abubakar claimed that all efforts to recover the debt from NAMA over the years had proved abortive.

However, it was gathered the disconnection of power supply to the agency’s facilities received the approval of the Managing Director of FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu.

In reaction, the umbrella body of the air controllers, the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said its members at the airport may be compelled to embark on a protest at the airport any moment from now.

A member of NATCA who didn’t want his name mentioned, expressed concern over air safety and security in the country.

The source alleged that the Airport Manager displayed a huge arrogance with the disconnection of power supply to the navigational aids of NAMA and its staff quarters.

The source insisted that the N500 million debt claim was still in context as at the time the power supply was cut off by FAAN, purporting that FAAN outrageously billed NAMA for services provided to the agency.

The source said: “Our people and our facilities have been in total darkness. It is something that calls for concern, especially for the safety and security of personnel. People are now in horrible condition and you expect them to dish out instructions.

“This is not the first time that FAAN will be treating our staff so badly through their staff who take the laws into their hands. This is a sister agency to us and if there are issues, you can ask the supervising ministry to intervene.

“We have done our best to placate our members not to embark on a protest action. What they threaten to also do is that since FAAN is the one collecting landing and take-off charges, then, we won’t grant any aircraft to land or take off at the airport. FAAN too will lose revenues. They don’t know we provide services for them.

“The over flyers will continue, but there won’t be landing or take off. Who authorised the airport manager to take that decision? This can cause a national embarrassment for Nigeria. If the controller has a serious incident due to this outage, what do you think will happen to the image of the country? FAAN won’t allow you to use generating set, they claimed they will provide everything, yet, people are not allowed to do their jobs.”

Stakeholder reaction

Comrade Olayinka Abioye, the immediate past General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) described the power cut as an act of irresponsibility by FAAN.

Abioye explained that as government agencies, FAAN ought to have involved the Ministry of Aviation in the crisis before taking the laws into its hands.

He called on the management of FAAN to restore power supply to the navigational aids of NAMA and its staff quarters, warning that if not quickly nipped in the bud, the action may have severe consequences on safety and security at the airport.

“Without ATC, can FAAN function in accordance with established rules? If there are issues such as this, let parties approach the Ministry and the matter shall be sorted out as usual. I recall when they came up with paying for office spaces, which was being calculated in square meters, the ministry put an immediate stop to such ridiculous request,” he said

FAAN confirmation and denial

However, FAAN said the power supply disconnection only affected the staff quarters of NAMA.

Mrs. Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, Ag. General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, in an interview with our correspondent, confirmed that the power supply to NAMA’s headquarters was cut off, but debunked the claim that the agency’s facilities were affected by the action.

“It’s best to get the facts of any issue from both sides before jumping to conclusion. The disconnection only affected their staff quarters and not their operational facilities at the airport that aid aircraft movements in and out. Only the staff quarters electrical line was cut off as a result of the outstanding bills.

“The electricity line to the staff quarters is separate from that of the airport because it’s a critical area of flight operations,” she said.

She insisted that the navigational aides are solar-powered, while FAAN also provided a standby generator for NAMA at the airport to power its facilities.

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