The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation on Monday asked the Federal Government to suspend plans for the concession of four of the nation’s airports.
The Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji who gave the directive, on Monday, at a meeting between the committee and officials of the Federal Ministry of Aviation said this is pending the resolution of all contentious issues.
Nnaji said a halt in the planned concession is imperative, so as to avoid an industrial dispute in the aviation sector, which would not be in the overall interest of the country.
The committee also said the concerns raised by labour unions and workers form part of the reason for the call to suspend the concession plan of the Federal Government.
Workers under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, (ANAP), and the National Air Transport Employees of Nigeria, (NUATE), have protested against the planned concession of four International Airports in the Country.
The workers, who held the protest at the Ilorin International Airport in Kwara State on Monday, lamented that previous concessions by the Federal Government has not yielded any fruit, and handing over the four airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Kano to concessionaires, could lead to great loss to the country and loss of jobs to the people.
Recently, the Federal Government said it has commenced the concession process after the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, received an outline business case certificate of compliance from ICRC.
According to the Chairman, Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, Sunday Ugbeikwu, the move is not an acceptable one.
“The Federal Government in conjunction with Minister of Aviation wants to concession our airports and we are saying no, they cannot concession our patrimony, we inherited it, and it is not in our watch it will happen,” he said.
While listing other facilities and infrastructures, he added that no concession has worked in Nigeria “because we are not transparent and they want to bring it into the aviation industry and we are saying no to the concession. They are not transparent in their policies.
“They said they want to draft our pensioners into PENCOM, for your information, FAAN is owing PENCOM to the tune of about N85 billion. If they do not clear those debts, they are mortgaging our destiny,” he expressed.
The Federal Government had stated that there is no going back on its plan to concession the four major airports in the country as it seeks to improve its safety and capacity.
According to Mr Sirika, the Government does not have money to put into these businesses and they don’t want to sell these facilities either.
But the Secretary, National Air Transport Employees of Nigeria, Abdulazeez Sanni, stressed that the move to single out the commercially viable airports will lead to job losses.
“We have 22 airports in the country, four are viable, most especially Lagos. Now they want to single out the viable ones and concession them, when the private sector takes over the airports that generate money and is now in the hands of concessionaires, where will they get money to pay staff?
“If these four have been taken over, who takes care of the remaining airports, who will pay salary? How is it possible that people will not lose their jobs?
“These are the things we want the whole world to know and to look into it. If you want to concession, there are options,” he urged.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has identified the concession of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport and three others, as the next big project, after the successful rehabilitation work on the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Senator Sirika, disclosed this to Channels Television’s correspondent in Benue state, during the induction of mi-35m gunships by President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Ministry of Aviation partners the Nigerian Airforce on airport security, research and training programmes.
The minister urged Nigerians to trust the Federal Government in protecting their interest, as was the case with the Abuja Airport runway project. He also stressed that four airports; that of Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano, are not up for sale but concession.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has declared that the Federal Government would not sit and allow people lose their jobs or kill businesses in the aviation industry all in the name of concessioning the airports.
This is just as he appealed to the unions not to use the concession agreement between Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) and the Federal Government to judge the planned concession of four major airports.
The Federal Government plans to concession airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano for effective service delivery, good turnover and management.
Sirika’s declaration is coming on the heels of the fears by the workers through the aviation unions that their members in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) that they could lose their jobs if the Federal Government goes ahead to concession the four major airports.
He spoke in Lagos at the weekend when he met with two aviation unions – Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria(FAAN) represented by its National President, Comrade Benjamin Okewu and the National Union Air Transport Employees(NUATE) represented by its former General Secretary, Comrade Abdulkareem Motajo.
Discussions at that meeting focused on the concession of airports which the unions had opposed.
“Contrary to beliefs that workers would be laid off when these airports are concessioned, there would be more activities.
“The Federal Government will not sit down and watch people who voted for change to lose their jobs or kill businesses instead of creating,” he stated, stressing that the aim of the concession is not to sell its assets.
Senator Sirika reiterated that he had brought out 26 things which he hoped to achieve during his tenure as the minister, highlighting that some of them are concession of airports, establishing a leasing company and setting up private sector driven MRO and national carrier.
He said that the position of the government in the planned concession was that the airports would be better than those in Singapore and Britain.
“In concessioning these airports, the government would carry aviation unions along and make the process transparent.”
According to Sirika, “concession will be done transparently and will never be in camera and everybody will be carried along”.
To further prove that the proposed concession will be transparent, the minister disclosed that a Project Delivery Team had been constituted, urging the unions to send representative to be in the team.
FAAN, he pointed out, would continue to own the airport, stressing that the concession is just for a period of time.
“I will always tell you the truth. Except I don’t understand the truth. That is why I have the unions here to tell me the truth,” he added.
Mark Jacobs who is the Special Adviser on legal matters to the Minister of Avaition was on from our Abuja studio to respond to the matter of airport concessioning going on between the FAAN and Maevis Nigeria Limited.
In his reponse,Jacobs told our Sunrise Daily crew that the company who signed the concessioning agreement with FAAN;Maevis Nigeria Limited never followed the guidelinesserving as a yardstick concerning the agreement as it always rushed to the court to get orders against FAAN.