Aviation workers handling cargoes at the airside of the airport

Olaseni Durojaiye

Fighting for operators in the aviation sector, members of the National Union of Air Transport Employee (NUATE) has petitioned the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, accusing Federal Airports Authority (FAAN) of incessant hike in operating charges, alleging that the charges were capable of inhibiting operations at the nation’s airports.

The petition which was signed by the union’s acting General Secretary, Comrade Olayinka Olu Abioye, stated that, “there is an industrial crisis looming within our airports between the management of the FAAN and the two handling companies comprising of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL) over the latter’s arbitrary, irregular, exorbitant and multiple fees imposed on these companies and its workers without recourse to established rules.”

“The letter continues: “Whereas we affirm and have severally advised the management of the Federal Airports Authority to engage in, and embark on increased internally generated revenue from non-aeronautical and ancillary sources, and whereas the management of FAAN has deployed its attention in this direction, in conformity with its objectives, and whereas these handling companies, being operators of passengers and cargo handling services require conducive and environmentally friendly airports to fulfil their obligations to its numerous customers, which has continued to add value to FAAN as an Airport Operator,” the petition added.

NUATE noted in the petition that it was moved to write the petition because of its commitment to promoting industrial harmony. It added that it is important that FAAN acknowledge and respect rights of its “business partner” adding that It the agency should adhere to provision for in Section ii of ICAO’s Policies on airport charges, where it was specifically stated that “consultation with airport users before changes in charging systems or levels of changes are introduced is important.”

“For FAAN therefore to be seen and appreciated by its business partners such as NAHCO and SAHCOL, it must ensure that consultations take place before any change in tariffs are imposed and should not be an annual event, done in the most shady manner, lacking in transparency, bearing in mind the consequences of the impact on airport users.

When contacted, General Manager, Corporate Communications, Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL), Basil Agboarumi, told THISDAY that the company has always complained about the incessant increase in charges adding that it does not augur well for business.

“We’ve been crying out even before now that the way FAAN slam tariffs on us is not favourable to business; we are happy that the union is now taking up the battle because our staff who are members of the union are also affected,” Agboarumi stated.

A member of the negotiating team with the NAHCO management told THISDAY that the figures were not too good when placed against the rising operating costs, which was said to have necessitated NAHCO to disengage some workers in last quarter of 2015.

NUATE members, who spoke to THISDAY alleged that “FAAN embarks on increment of rates and charges arbitrarily. “

THISDAY gathered that the petition had caused a rift within the ranks of NUATE members as other chapters of the unions, in solidarity with NAHCO and SAHCOL are threatening not to have anything to do with FAAN workers’ union whom they allege, had refused to see reason with the general workers generally on the negative business practices of union representatives.

The Manager, Corporate Communications and Services, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), Mr. Tayo Ajakaye, told THISDAY that “After we were made to pay N12,500 per annum per staff for toll gate access, NAHCO staff still pay for parking at the rate of N300 or N400 per entry into car park depending on the type of car; yet, FAAN also bills NAHCO staff on posting to the international airport N15, 000 per car,” Ajakaiye stated.

Speaking on the N150, 000 per equipment charged on apron pass, Ajakaye said it was a development that started like a joke. According to him, “Prior to 2011, the ground handling companies were not paying for apron passes. But FAAN woke up one day and introduced apron passes at N50,000 per vehicle. It then moved last year from N50, 000 to N150, 000 per vehicle and also equipment. NAHCO has more than 400 equipment in Lagos alone; the charges for Port Harcourt and Abuja are worse; on apron passes alone, the company had paid more than N80 million to FAAN in the last two years.

“What is contained in the letter by the NUATE to the minister is what we have been facing all of these years. It is really harrowing. I can’t describe such a business model as customer – friendly,” Ajakaye lamented.”

When THISDAY sought to get the opinion of other operators including DHL, Cargolux, ServeAir and Aviation Services Limited, they spoke vehemently against the persistent arbitrary charges by FAAN at the airport. A DHL staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “We have no parking space even though we paid through our nose to operate at the airports. DHL visitors and customers find it difficult coming to the airport because of the number of fees they had to pay just for their cars to get access and for parking.

However, when contacted, General Manager, Corporate Communications, FAAN, Yusuf Datti said: “I’m aware of the petition. I’m also aware that the ministry has set up a committee to look into the issues raised in the petition. We have presented our position to the committee and we expect that other concerned parties should explore that window of opportunity. That is all I have to say on the matter,” he added.