Dr. Wale Babalakin
By Chinedu Eze
The fight over the property between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) is yet to abate as the workers of the agency have petitioned the management, requesting that the hotel being built by the private investor be converted to the office headquarters of the authority.
THISDAY learnt that this was contained in a solidarity message to FAAN’s Managing Director, George Uriesi, by the workers, who threatened to go on strike if FAAN did not acquiesce to their request, arguing that now that the building under construction had reverted to the agency, its operations at the headquarters should be relocated to the facility, adding that FAAN had lost over N5 billion since the company took over the land to build the hotel.
The workers, whose action is being spearheaded by top labour executives in the agency, explained that it was the best way to effectively utilise the structure located few meters to FAAN office complex that presently serve as its headquarters.
Few weeks ago FAAN said it had taken over the hotel being built on a lease concession opposite the domestic terminal, MMA2, owned and managed by BASL.
Bi-Courtney secured the concession agreement to build these facilities, including a conference centre from the agency, but FAAN argued that the time given the company to complete the hotel had since elapsed since 2008 and therefore, according to the content of the agreement it reached with Bi-Courtney Limited, the later had breached the terms of the contract by not completing the projects as scheduled, so the facility reverts to FAAN.
But Bi-Courtney had earlier secured a court injunction to stop FAAN from taking over the facility and unless the court rules otherwise, the company still lays claim to its ownership, although FAAN insists that it did not receive any court injunction.
In his reaction to the clamour of the workers, spokesman of BASL, Steve Omolale-Ajulo, said: “Anybody or group is free to mount pressure on FAAN to convert another company’s property to its own. But, the position of the law is clear on that and Nigerians are aware of the decision of the court as far as the hotel and conference centre projects are concerned.
“Bi-Courtney sympathises with FAAN for displaying its frustration and desperation so openly by using all sorts of tactics, from directly lying to the public and now sponsoring some groups and statements in the media in its already failed campaign of calumny against us.”
Confirming the demand of the workers, a senior official of Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigerian (ATSSSAN, FAAN branch) said that what the workers requested was in tandem with their earlier position about the “giving of all the airport land in Lagos to Bi-Courtney,” adding that the federal government at the time it was given to the company “arm-twisted FAAN to reach concession agreement with Bi-Courtney Limited.”
“He (Dr. Wale Babalakin, the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited) arm-twisted FAAN to secure those concessions. He said he would use our living quarter as guest house, together with the airport school. He said he was going to use the headquarters of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) as the kitchen for his hotel. But when he took lease of that land where he built the hotel, it was agreed he would complete it in 18 months. It is now more than eight years.
“He has deprived us revenue from that land. We have lost over N5 billion from that land which was rented to food vendors and part of it used as car park. He was annexing all the land at the airport. We have to use the hotel as our headquarters. It is well located as head office,” the official said.