Unions oppose concession of airports, seek 55% equity to public, 45% to govt.

 

*Faults Minister’s handling of process

 

Unions in the aviation industry said they would resist attempt by the Federal Government to concession four of the aerodromes in Nigeria, describing the procedure for concession as not transparent.

Rather than concession, the unions recommended green field concession which empowers new investors to deal on fresh ventures which includes construction of new runways, terminal buildings.

They also suggested that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) can be corporatized in which the Federal Government retains 45 per cent equity share while the remaining 55 per cent is broken down for public acquisition, adding that this is the model adopted by some other climes in similar circumstance as Nigeria.

They said they are opposed to the selective concession of Nigeria’s four major international airports. The further stated that concession or privatization has turned Nigeria into a huge theatre of the absurd.

To them, the Nigerian experience in privatization leaves a very sore taste in the mouth even for a person who has no taste bud.

The unions made up of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), FAAN branch in a joint press briefing on Tuesday said the will ensure the grounding of activities in the sector should government go ahead with the planned concession of Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port-Harcourt airports.

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Spokesman for the group and the General Secretary of NUATE, Ocheme Aba saying everything so far about the issue of concession for the four airports had been single handedly decided by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and accused them of not carrying out any due diligence on the concession exercise.

It would be recalled that Sirika had last week brandished the certificate of compliance issued him by the ICRC which confirmed that the Minister has complied with all needed requirements to proceed with the process of concession for the four international airports.

With the all clear, the Minister is expected to proceed to seek the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for his proposed Outline Business Case (OBC) for the project.

Aba alleged that while the Project Delivery Team (PDT) which includes the ICRC was still discussing the issue of Transaction Adviser (TA), the Minister was on air announcing the approval of FEC of a TA and his fees.

Both the TA and the fees he reiterated were apparently decided solely by the minister in its effort,, stressing that up till date, the PDT has not been allowed to take a position on the matter.

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He highlighted that at the last meeting of the PDT in late 2019, it was decided that the airports concession issue be degraded to the bottom of the list of aviation priority projects while upgrading the national carrier, aviation leasing company and the aircraft Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) for quick delivery.

He stated that in addition, the ICRC was requested to provide the required components for the OBCs for the upgraded projects which the commission promised to provide at the meeting, regretting that next meeting was yet to be called till date.

He wondered how the same ICRC issued a Certificate of Compliance (C of C) to the Minister of Aviation for the outline business case for concession of four international airports.

His words, “Unfortunately, the Minister of Aviation completely side-stepped the team and has gone ahead with his own programmes as determined by himself alone. Our unions have decided that we shall have to review our membership of the PDT if this type of public deceit and shenanigan continue.”

 

From left: Deputy General Secretary of ATSSSAN, Francis Akinjole, General Secretary of NUATE, Ocheme Aba and Secretary-General, ANAP, Abdul Rasaq Saidu at a press conference on airports concession held on June 30th, 2020

 

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“Based on the above, we hereby alert President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the National Assembly and the general public not to be deceived by the celebrated certificate of compliance from the ICRC and not to approve the privately assembled outline business case. This outline, for reasons stated, cannot be detached from individual embedded interests and may be a self-favouring trap.”

The unions cited the story of failed privatization of the then national carrier-Nigeria Airways,  which they lamented took the airline’s life is still reverberating since 2004. They equally cited the concession controversies of MMA2 to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited which they said remains the biggest example of how not to concession an airport.

“All ongoing concessions of economic activities of FAAN have only resulted in losses in revenue to the authority. With all these at the back of our minds, we ask, dear God, why any Nigerian government officials would choose to waste public funds in chasing shadows in the name of privatising airports when nothing whatsoever has changed about the Nigerian situation”.

Wole Shadare