Nigeria, Others Scramble For Airspace In Gulf Of Guinea
Experts Attribute Development To Quest For Economic Expansion
THE international air space at the Gulf of Guinea may be partitioned between Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Togo and Republic of Benin after the ongoing scramble and diplomatic maneuvers for the control of the lucrative navigational environment in the west and Central African sub-region, literally speaking.
The airspace is regarded as international air environment, the control of which was given to Ghana by the world aviation body, International Civic Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in 1948.
But the scramble for the control among the four countries started last year when Togo and Benin Republic took control of their airspace from Ghana. Last month, President Buhari directed Nigeria Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) to take over the Nigerian airspace at the Gulf of Guinea from Ghana, although the country had denied being in control of Nigeria’s airspace at the Gulf. But aviation experts explained the true position of things when they said the airspace was given to Ghana to control since 1948, long before Nigeria’s independence oin1960, as it was regarded as international airspace, belonging to no one country in particular.
They also argued that Nigeria is in best position to be in control of the lucrative airspace because of its nearness to Nigeria than any other country in the sub-region.
Aviation experts said at the end of the ongoing diplomatic talks over the airspace, it might be partitioned among the countries or handed over to Nigeria, which according to them has become more sophisticated to handle such sensitive air navigational environment.
The experts said Nigeria currently has advantage over other countries in the region, in terms of infrastructure, to control air traffic at the Gulf of Guinea as they observed that the radar in the country could cover areas beyond the Gulf of Guinea.
Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) is said to be holding talks with relevant stakeholders in the West and Central Africa, in the bid to carry out the presidential order that the Nigeria air space is not in contention as believed by many people, necessitating the denial recently by the Ghanaian Airspace Management Authority.
The authority told The Guardian that the Nigerian airspace, otherwise known as Kano flight information region is being controlled by Nigerian Service provider, and covered by a radar that is today capturing aircraft movement beyond the Gulf of Guinea.
The General Manager, procurement at NAMA, Mr. Olumuyiwa Adegorite, an engineer, said the airspace at the gulf of Guinea is commercially viable for any country in its control because of ‘‘heavy traffic in the area.”
According to him, the major attraction to the aviation zone is economy, adding that traffic in the region is enough to attract control interest as any aircraft that flies across the zone would have to pay to the managing authority.
He said the presidential directive for the take over from Ghana was a step in the right direction. ‘‘This history of that flight zone is age-long. It has been under Accra flight information zone since 1948.
Accra has been in control of Togo and Republic of Benin airspace, but in 2008, Benin and Togo made effort to take over their airspace from Accra. They have been on it. Nigeria is now involved.
It is going to impact negatively on safety if Togo controls one area and another area by Ghana. That is why Nigeria requested to take the airspace.
But Nigeria is a member of International Civic Aviation organisation and we have to follow the international process. In the next couple of months or a year, we will be somewhere as far as the presidential directive is concerned.
On the need for Nigeria to have control of the airspace over the Gulf of Guinea, he said: ‘‘the aircraft that flies across the airspace pays navigational charges and that payment will now come to Nigeria.
The major attraction is economy. From experience, that place is a busy corridor. It will attract enough revenue as far as air navigation is concerned.”
To take over the airspace, Adegorite said Nigeria would need to follow a process involving all stakeholders from the sub-region and ICAO since the airspace in contention is regarded as international airspace. ‘‘The air space in the Gulf of Guinea is an international airspace and membership of ICAO in the West and Central Africa are involved because Nigeria is a signatory to Chicago ICAO declaration.
So we have to follow the international process, supported by ICAO and which member states subscribed to.” He said Nigeria has the required capacity to control the airspace at the Gulf. ‘‘We are not lacking in infrastructure.
The radar in Nigeria covers beyond Accra, even the Gulf itself. So we are not lacking in terms of capacity. The first thing ICAO looks out for is safety. There are economic factor because it is potential revenue earner. It is only ICAO that can give out the control of the airspace because it is designated as international airspace,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria, Togo and Benin Republic met in April to work out how to coordinate flight and redesign the gulf region, adding that another meeting would be held before the end of the year for a mutual agreement on how the area could be delineated before meeting ICAO for ratification. ‘‘Players will agree first before ICAO will ratify the regional air delineation plan.
It involves couples of meetings, diplomacy, disagreement and agreement before a mutual position could be taken among stakeholders because of safety.
There was a meeting in June in Dakar, there will be another meeting again before the end of the year to chart course for further resolution of the matter.”
A lot of things were neglected during the military era. But there has been substantial improvement in the management of the airspace by NAMA. The Radar coverage has improved to enable NAMA effectively manage area under our control. Our blind spots can now be managed because we now have the equipment and our radar coverage has improved. We now have manpower for satellite navigation. Control of airspace also brings revenue. I don’t know if there was revenue sharing agreement with Ghana ever since. It will improve revenue earning for the country, he said
Other aviation experts, who spoke on the matter, commended President Buhari for the directive on the airspace at the Gulf of Guinea The Managing Director of IRS, Captain Yomi Dada said Nigeria has come of age to be able to have perfect control of its airspace. ‘‘The directive by President Buhari showed that we had challenges for sometime and that government had put in place the right infrastructure to do the air traffic control job. A lot of things were neglected during the military era.
But there has been substantial improvement in the management of the airspace by NAMA. The Radar coverage has improved to enable NAMA effectively manage area under our control.
Our blind spots can now be managed because we now have the equipment and our radar coverage has improved. We now have manpower for satellite navigation. Control of airspace also brings revenue.
I don’t know if there was revenue sharing agreement with Ghana ever since. It will improve revenue earning for the country, he said. To Captain Dada, the security of the country would also be enhanced, which is what the control of the airspace at the Gulf is intended to do. ‘‘We will now know which airplane passes through that area.
We have to know the number of airplanes coming into Lagos from West and Central Africa because it is a busy route.” The President of airline operators Association of Nigeria, Captain Nogie Megison said the problem started about 70 years ago, when no airspace was allocated to Nigeria at the time areas around Atlantic Ocean were being delineated for control by countries.
According to him, only areas around the North Pole with low or no air traffic was left for the country. ‘‘This area leads to nowhere and aircrafts hardly fly across it.
So it is not commercially viable.” With the new development, he said Nigeria could now apply for control of airspace since it now has the required equipment to manage any airspace. ‘‘The directive by the president is a right step in the right direction because we now have the facilities to manage our airspace,” he said.