Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, yesterday inaugurated the project steering committee for the concession of the Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt international airports.
The members of the committee include, the Solicitor General of the federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Taiwo Abidogun, the Director General, Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Mr. Benjamin Dikko, representatives from the Ministries of Finance, Budget Planning and Aviation.
While inaugurating the members in Abuja, Sirika, said the concession would be driven on Public Private Partnership (PPP), because government did not have the money to finance the project from start to finish.
According to him, the desire for the PPP strategy in the concession was necessitated by the situation in which the country found itself, adding that economically, government could not afford public spending on infrastructure.
Sirika said: “The amount of money required is astronomical and the challenge to get the money is herculean, so we have to look elsewhere as that is the global best practice in the activity of this nature.”
The minister however explained that there was a public misconception between concession and privatisation, adding that component of PPP which was the public which made makes the difference between privatisation and concessioning.
He said: “One of the five unions expressed concern that there would be job losses. I think their argument does not hold water as they have not done their research well. Also, they are mistaking concession for privatisation and I also think that they had not come for consultation in the ministry.
“It is important for the public to know that in concession, the assets remain with the people, which is the Nigerian public.”
On why concession is the way to go in the sector, he said: “Our infrastructure in aviation and in transportation are dilapidated, they are not ideal, they don’t attract customers, they don’t show our nation to be in tandem with global happenings.
“For that reason, we believe that we should concession our airports and establish a national carrier to feed those airports as a hub, establish a maintenance and an overhaul centre to build companies that will service and maintain the national carrier and other participants in the sector.”
The terms of reference, according to him include: approve technical, financial and legal framework for a successful execution of the concession, provide guidelines and policy direction relating to PPP on concession and to facilitate necessary permits, clearance in the processing of PPP matters.
He assured: “Once we start, within 24 months we should be able to have a new Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kano airports, which will create an opportunity that in establishing the national carrier, it will create more jobs and facilitate trade and commerce.”
In another development, the minister also constituted the project delivery committee made up of directors and heads of agencies under the ministry.
He mandated the delivery committee to work and fast track the implementation and policy guidelines of the project t steering g committee.
According to him, they should also function as technical advisory body to the project steering committee.
In a remark, the Vice Chairman of both committees, who also doubles as the Permanent Secretary, in the Ministry, Mr. Sabiu Zakari, pledged the commitment of members to diligently carry out the assignment.
While seeking the assistance of the minister, he said there was need for fast tracking of the assignments in order to avoid the bottle necks that often entangled project delivery, adding however that both committees will work within the framework of the last of the country.