The management of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has caused a serious uproar after secretly populating the agency with northerners.
According to Daily Sun report, NAMA shortlisted about 35 candidates to be trained and recruited as Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs), it was found out that majority of the shortilsted candidates are from the northern part of the country and almost 18 allegedly from Katsina State.
Daily Sun exclusively learnt that the recruitment process was not only said to be lopsided but also shrouded in secrecy following management’s inability to advertise the vacanciesin line with the law establishing the Federal Character Commission which mandates that vacancies for positions in the Federal Civil Service be advertised in one Southern and one Northern paper for a period of six weeks.
A source told Daily Sun that this was the first time such recruitment of ATCOs in particular was happening in NAMA. The source further said the workers were told that management was able to get approval from the Federal Character Commission because it was allegedly told that what was being done was ‘not a recruitment but replacement.’
Sections 14.3 and 14.4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) requires that there shall be no ‘predominance of persons from a few states or ethnic or other sectional groups’ in the Federal Government and its agencies. But sources within the agency alleged that it was the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, that sent in the list of the candidates that were shortlisted and accused him of running a ‘one man show’ by exerting undue control over the six agencies under his supervision.
“Among those were shortlisted for training as ATCOs, only one or two were from the South East, about three were from the South West, while 18 were from Katsina where the Minister comes from. The remaining recruits were from the rest of the northern states,” a source told Daily Sun.
Barely two years ago, the aviation minister was accused of being responsible for a similar lopsided recruitment into the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) when the agency needed security officers in all airports especially Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Abuja.
Daily Sun gathered that at the time, FAAN had concluded interviews in all the airports and wanted to give priority to those who were already working as causal staff in the different states because they were used to the terrain.
But an insider told Daily Sun that after FAAN had concluded the interviews for the candidates,“the minister’s list suddenly emerged from the blues with majority of candidates on the list from the north and about 400 from Katsina alone.
Unfortunately, those interviewed by FAAN who were expecting their employment letters were jettisoned.
According to them, although the minister’s candidates didn’t go through any interview, they were given appointment letters and told to camp. After they were redeployed to different states from Katsina, most of them couldn’t cope. How can you carry a level four officer from Katsina to Port Harcourt, how would they cope financially? Most of them returned to Katsina and they are there doing nothing. They just go to their farms and collect salaries at the end of the month because Katisna doesn’t have a busy airport. FAAN had to continue overusing those who were at the airports where we needed people.”
In his response, AviationMinistry’s Director of Media and Publicity, James Odaudu, categorically denied the allegations leveled against Sirika, telling Daily Sun that the minister is a stickler for due process and was neither responsible for recruitment into agencies nor ensuring that vacancies in NAMA are published in national dailies.
Meanwhile there have been strong concerns over evaluation process in NAMA as the shortlisted candidates in NAMA was conducted on April 12 at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and the result of the exercise has already been released. Though it is still being kept under wraps, insiders within the agency allege that the evaluation was faulty and didn’t follow the due process that would ensure that very competent people are selected as ATCOs.
One of the issues raised is that most of those recruited are far above the age of 27 required for the position of a cadet in the Air Traffic Control Department. A source told Daily Sun that in the employment manual, it was stated there that a cadet should not be more than 27 years.
“If they employ cadets at 25 and they go to Zaria for training for two years, by the time they are through, they will be around 27 or 28 but instead Human Resources employed people that are over 30 years old and by the time they are through with training, they will be about 35 to 37 years. Those who drew up that policy did it because a cadet is supposed to be a trainee. You don’t get someone who by the time he is through with NCAT, will have been 35 to come and train under someone who is 27 years old. This is a critical department that deals with the safety of people’s lives. You don’t bring in elderly people that would not fit to do the job. That is just one of the many criteria of the evaluation process that was not met,” the source said.
Daily Sun also reliably learned from another senior management staff who is not authorised to speak on such matters, that the Nigerian Air Traffic Control Association (NATCA) and the Human Resource department have been at loggerheads over staff welfare and recruitment. The body wrote a letter to the management of the agency, expressing concern over the secretiveness of the entire recruitment process and was very worried that considering the very sensitive job of an ATCO (Air Traffic Controllers are responsible for directing the safe movement of aircraft arriving and departing from airports), the Association needed to be involved in the evaluation to ensure that the candidates meet all necessary requirements and only the best hands are selected.
“The questions the HR should be asked are what were the criteria for the evaluation? Were proper aero medicals carried out to ensure that they are mentally and physically fit? Who conducted the evaluation? Was a committee which includes experienced ATCOs set up? Why was NATCA not involved in the process as had been the tradition in the past? Because of the safety implications of air travel and the very sensitive duties of ATCOs, the recruitment should have been made open so that more people can apply and the best shortlisted.
Typically, the pass mark for ATCOs in any examination is 75 percent and even if candidate scores 74 percent, the person would be considered to have failed but they just orchestrated the evaluation process in such a way that will make it easy for most of the shortlisted candidates to scale through.
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