By Chinedu Eze
The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has assured the unions in the aviation industry that no worker will be sacked in the proposed concession programme of the federal government.
The government has set out plan to concession four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano in the first phase of the programme, while the rest of the airports under the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) would be concessioned in the second phase.
The workers, through the aviation unions have opposed the concession plan because of the fear that they would lose their jobs, but government said it does not have the resources to continue to fund airport infrastructure development and therefore want to bring the private sector funding through concession.
The ministers aid, when he met with the unions represented by the Air Transport Senior Staff Services of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) in Lagos weekend, that government would give the unions the opportunity to become members of the Concession Project Delivery Committee, to enable them make inputs to better the process.
Sirika said the federal government has earmarked the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) and Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA) for the first phase of concession which would be followed by the cargo designated airports and then others later.
Although a particular date has not been set for this process, but during the meeting with the unions, Sirika reiterated that the airports as they are, were a major blemish which needed improvement and modernisation.
He stated that the decision behind government’s resolve to concession was the over-riding national interest of the country in ensuring the establishment and sustenance of world-class standards in infrastructural development and service delivery.
He assured the unions that concession is not tantamount to privatisation or outright sale and explained that the institutions being concessioned remained the properties of the FAAN and Nigeria, noting that more jobs would be generated at the end of the concession.
“You see, government has no plan whatsoever to sell national assets but it was sheer misconception. But the truth is that government does not have money to invest and even if they could, with the sheer bureaucracy it could take ten years and Nigerians are tired of what is on ground and want something new,” the minister said.