FLIGHT operations at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano were on Monday temporarily grounded following face-off between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency over non-payment of electricity bills.
This came just as the aviation unions’ directive to workers across the airports to embark on a peaceful protest over what they called an obnoxious bill in the new act signed into law by President Muhamadu Buhari last week had led to a heavy gridlock around the Ikeja axis of Lagos State.
The union officials and the workers marched round the domestic wing of the Lagos airport chanting solidarity songs without recourse to the early morning rains.
Tension started mounting between NAMA and FAAN since last Friday following the disconnection of power supplies to the quarters housing the NAMA workers and its facilities within the airport over N500million debt.
Members of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the professional body in NAMA responsible for clearing and separating aircraft taking off and landing at the airport and other airports had threatened to shut down air navigation facilities in the Kano zone over the disconnection of electricity supply by the airport manager in Kano.
The disconnection of NAMA electricity supplies had kept the NAMA quarters in Kano in darkness which made it difficult for the controllers to carry out their critical assignments.
One of the controllers who craved anonymity lamented how he said the FAAN through its airport manager in Kano, had unilaterally undermined other stakeholders especially NAMA denying them of electricity supply.
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While warning that there will be a total shut down of provisions of Air Navigation and safety services in Kano over what he described as an irresponsible action by FAAN, he declared: “It is not a threat but we must once and for all forestall FAAN’s intolerance and undignified approach to civil aviation safety standards and recommended practice.”
A source within NAMA in a phone conversation with the Nigerian Tribune however hinted that the issue had since been resolved between the two sister agencies. As early as 7am on Monday, the aviation workers in Lagos led by the National Union of Air Transport Employees; Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria; Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals; Amalgamated Unions of Public Corporations; Civil Service Technical & Recreational Services Employees, and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, had positioned themselves at strategic locations starting from the local airport.
The gates and offices of the FAAN, NAMA and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) were locked up by the unions to prevent the top management officials from working.
The peaceful strike hindered smooth vehicular movements not only within the Ikeja axis but up to Ikeja along and Oshodi axis with many airline workers reporting late to work.
At the end of the rally at the Lagos end, the unions led by the General Secretary of NUATE, Comrade Aba Ocheme gave the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum within when to expunge the obnoxious bill or risk a total shutdown of airports.