21st October, 2010
The recent commissioning by President Goodluck Jonathan of the Total Radar Coverage for Nigeriaâ€™s Airspace, known as TRACON, is a hoax. The President should not have commissioned an uncompleted project.
The aim of TRACON is to provide total visibility of the Nigerian airspace stretching over 315 nautical miles. When the Nigerian airspace is under full radar coverage, all flights originating, terminating and over-flying the Nigerian airspace, will remain in radio and radar contact with the air traffic controllers every inch of the way.
TRACON will enhance the countryâ€™s civil and military surveillance of aircraft operation in the countryâ€™s airspace. Emergency operations in the event of accidents will be more effective with TRACON.
Because studies showed that one radar could not cover the entire Nigerian airspace, the project was made up of nine radars located in nine locations across the country.
Four of the radars are located at the countryâ€™s four international airports of Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt and the remaining five are located in Ilorin, Obubra, Numan, Talata Mafara and Maiduguri.
Lagos and Kano were designated Area Control Centres and must be interlinked with other areas for effective coverage of the airspace. Everything therefore will be monitored from Lagos and Kano.
The contract for TRACON was awarded in 2003 by President Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s administration at the sum of Euros 67 million to Thales ATM GmbH, a French company. Even though the project was commissioned recently with fanfare, aviation experts familiar with TRACON have described the hasty inauguration as a deceit.
One expert even described it as the greatest fraud in recent times. According to the expert, Lagos and Kano are not yet interlinked with the seven other stations.
The expert explained that as at today, Kano is having radar links with Abuja and Maiduguri, while Lagos only has with Port Harcourt but with little or no voice communication. This renders the entire project inefficient and unsafe.
The radar in Lagos, he said, has recently been witnessing dropping of labels and epileptic power supply. The frequent power cuts have contributed in making the equipment clumsy for usage. For Nigeria to be totally radar-covered, attention must be focused on Lagos and Kano with very efficient and effective VHF radio coverage and interlink them with the base stations in Obubra, Numan, Ilorin, Maiduguri, Talata Mafara, Abuja and Port Harcourt to have a complete circuit, the expert said.
We believe that the safety of Nigerian passengers cannot be mortgaged with cheap political gains. The project should never have been commissioned until it was ready.
The Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, and the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, Mr. Ibrahim Auyo, should have properly advised the president not to commission it until all the stations and centres were interlinked and the entire airspace was covered. It was a deceit and it is condemnable.
The revelation that the Federal Government has allocated a N400 million contract to a Nigerian company called DAEMAKARO Nigeria Limited, in partnership with PARKAIR Limited of the United Kingdom, to acquire Very High Frequency (VHF) needed for TRACON, is a good step in the right direction. The company must now move fast and ensure that all the stations are interlinked.