FG Insists on Concession of Major Airports

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Chinedu Eze

The federal government has said despite opposition, it has taken a firm decision to concession Nigeria’s major airports located in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.

It explained that concessioning the airports was the panacea to the protracted infrastructural decay, which could constitute a threat to air safety.

This was disclosed by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who said this was the only choice the country has now to move the industry forward.

Sirika said for the industry to be revitalised, it must concession and attract investors into the industry, saying the development of the sector stands on three pillars namely: establishing a private sector driven national carrier, establishment of a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, also privately driven and the establishment of an aircraft leasing company.

Sirika who spoke in Lagos, reiterated some of the administration’s plan to revamp the sector, which in recent times, is facing a lot of challenges, explaining that government has no money to invest in the sector and cannot invest a kobo on the national carrier or others but said the private sector would rebuild the industry.

“The planned national carrier will be private sector driven and will go through all the processes an airline should go through before coming in, also, the MRO will be private sector driven, and the aircraft leasing company that will come in along with the MRO will serve the national carrier.

“Right now, one of the major challenges of airlines is maintenance and they seek hard currency in a bid to carry that out, plus they have top ferry these aircraft at a huge cost and same aircraft will have to queue for a slot on a maintenance schedule. If we had an MRO, it will go a long way to make things easier for the industry,” the ministe said.

While responding to questions, Sirika also addressed the plight of the ex-workers of the now liquidated Nigeria Airways. He said the president was aware and he is sourcing for funds to offset their backlog of gratuities.

“They will soon smile by God’s grace, I have no doubt that this social democratic government will do something soon,” he added.

On the issue of airport concession of the major airports the Minister of State declared that it was already a forgone conclusion and that government was bent on the concession of the airports. He however explained that the misconception that government was selling the airports or privatising them was wrong.

According to him, the airports have dilapidated so badly that it would take major investors to come in and turn it around, stating again that the facilities were so poor and that government does not have funds to invest in them.

He noted that during the concessioning, government would earn from the airport until when the concession elapses and then it is returned.

“We no longer have money to put in public property but we will not sell or privatise; as social democrats, all we can do is to concession them so as to grow them. And that we will do. You see government has no plans whatsoever to sell national assets but it was sheer misconception to see the unions on the street demonstrating what they thought was sales of the airport. The airports will be concessioned, the big four and then later six of the cargo designated airports and this will help us not just grow and expand the sector but put us in the right path to again be established as a hub,” he said.