By Ejikeme Omenazu, Lagos

Passengers are stranded at the nation’s airports as air traffic controllers across the country on Thursday morning embarked on a six-hour warning strike.

According to a statement by the National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA), the strike was to draw the attention of the management of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), to epileptic air navigation equipment, as well as the failure to address welfare issues raised by the association last year.

The warning strike, according to the association, is a prelude to total industrial action scheduled to begin on Monday April 20, 2015.

Hoever, the warning strike did not disrupt flights at airports nationwide as the NAMA management of put in place a contingency plan to mitigate the effects.

Part of the contingency plan, according to NAMA sources, is the use of Nigerian Air Force personnel as traffic controllers at airports nationwide.

An official of NAMA said the management has commenced discussions with the NATCA members on how to resolve the issues.

The NAMA Managing Director, Ibrahim Abdulsalam, is already in Abuja to meet relevant ministry officials on how to resolve the impending strike by air traffic controllers.

It is believed that by Friday, the matter would have been resolved amicably between NAMA and the striking air traffic controllers.

Last year, at its annual general meeting in Kano, members of NATCA in a communiqué, complained of epileptic air navigation equipment at airports nationwide, even as they complained about intolerable working conditions.

In statement on Thursday, NATCA, speaking through its National President, Victor Egaru said: “It is against the background of no action plan and political will to implement the agreements earlier reached with our association and others that has necessitated this corresponding action by air traffic controllers in Nigeria.

“Today’s (Thursday’s) action will last six hours only as a warning sign but in preparation for a major and total industrial action, which shall commence on Monday April 20, 2015, if relevant government bodies continue to threat air traffic controllers issues with utmost levy or neglect.

“Tempers are high, but industrial peace and harmony must be the concern of everybody.”

Last year, air traffic controllers cited incessant failure of air navigation equipment at airports nationwide as part of the reasons why the association is embarking on strike.

The association also complained about epileptic and alarming failure of air navigation equipment, which has increased the work load of both air traffic controllers and pilots.

A statement signed and issued by Victor Egaru and Olawode Banji, President and General Secretary respectively, said it is disheartening that in the last two months that the CNS/ATM equipment has been epileptic and alarming, thereby increasing the workloads of both ATCs and Pilots.

“Presently, the Instrument Landing System (ILS) serving the Lagos Runway 18R has been unserviceable for close to three months while the one serving the Second Runway (18L) have been epileptic for more than one month.

“The distance measuring equipment on located with the VOR in Lagos has been out of service for a long time as well. Equipment in many airports, including communication facilities, suffer that same fate.”

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