Exterior of Murtala Muhmammed 2 Airport, Lagos
BY Chinedu Eze
When it became obvious that the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, would be fully in charge of the sector, report spread, indicating that the new minister would not want to work with over-bloated workforce in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Sirika was quoted as saying that he would not work with about 43 general managers in the agency, which is struggling to pay salaries and not meeting the targeted revenue and encumbered with top-heavy personnel.
The report that the minister would sack workers was shortly followed by rumour of shortlist of those that would be laid off, but the expectation of the purge had almost faded by last Wednesday when FAAN sacked about 22 top officials, including assistant general managers, deputy general managers, general managers and directors.
When the information made its way to the workers, there was a mixture of sadness and joy. Sadness for those that lost their jobs and their sympathisers, and happiness to the old staff and the unions, who believed that those sacked came in midstream, as political appointees.
The unions had at several times excoriated the situation whereby ministers employ medium and high-cadre manpower from outside the agency and the aviation sector and with such inexperience occupy managerial position to decide and take critical actions that determine and define the destiny of the organisation.
Besides that, when such top officials are appointed from outside, it aborts the progression of those who started on level 8 as university graduates, rising from the ranks and garnering experience to become the managers of the agency in future.
For the above people, the minister who was behind the sack made their day and ignited them with high hopes as it has been confirmed at various quarters that the sack would continue in order to realise the restructuring process for a more productive FAAN.
THISDAY learnt that the agency sacked over 22 senior officials, who were engaged about four years ago and demoted others on what the agency referred to as “proper placement.”
THISDAY also learnt that most of the directors, general managers, assistant general managers and deputy general managers employed under Senator Stella Oduah when she was the Minister of Aviation were sacked.
Some of those, who were demoted, did not have any choice than to resign in order to avoid the disgrace of working under former junior officer, but those who were demoted by one level or two may have considered continuing with the job, as there are no jobs anywhere these days.
A top official from another aviation agency, who is influential to the minister, had once told THISDAY that the post of directorship is a political appointment and when the minister, who appoints the directors is removed, the directors should go with him or her.
The official noted therefore that it was a misnomer for the appointed directors and other top officials to outstay the minister that appointed them.
Among those removed were three acting directors and three substantive directors. One acting director was demoted and two substantive directors were also demoted, but the director of human resources was retained, but there were indications that more staff from the top echelon, especially those who were politically appointed would be relieved of their duties in the shorted possible time.
A staff of FAAN who is an executive member of Air Transport Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) told THISDAY that, “Two directors were appointed and they had started work and these were director of finance and accounts and director of commercial and business development.”
Although the purge was expected, it shook a lot of feathers and there is palpable fear in aviation sector because there are strong feelings that while more people would be sacked in FAAN, it might be extended to other agencies in the industry, including the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).
FAAN personnel, who spoke to THISDAY, said government should go the whole hog in relieving the politically-employed workers from the system because they deflate the enthusiasm of the workers, who rose from the ranks from dedicating themselves to the job.
“The ultimate ambition of a career civil servant in parastatals like ours is to rise to a general manager and possibly a director, but this unwelcomed tradition whereby a minister when appointed brings inexperienced people from outside affects the dedication of the old workers because they feel they may never rise to become a general manager, not even to talk of becoming a director and while in the course of his duties such positions would be taken over by outsiders.
THISDAY on Thursday observed that there was apathy at most offices at the headquarters of FAAN as some of the affected workers still reported for duties, but the agency was yet to officially speak on the issue. Aviation unions say they would not relax in ensuring that proper placement was carried out in other aviation agencies, as a major shakeup was expected in other agencies before next week.
Sirika was quoted to have said that he would make FAAN and other agencies smarter, more productive and more nimble, adding that the agencies would no more be weighed down by over-bloated workforce.
But THISDAY learnt that there were no clear-cut criteria for people, who were designated to be sacked or demoted because each of those so considered had similar baggage.
Some officials of the agency also disclosed that what while the minister was giving out with his left hand; he was collecting with the right one.
“Despite the outcry that FAAN was burdened with high personnel, the minister allegedly employed people into the some positions against the latest thinking that there should be a reduction in the workforce. Some months ago, about 400 people or more were employed in FAAN with such enviable fiat. This was done in all the agencies. What this means is that while these older workers have been asked to go with their counterparts they have already been replaced by those employed by this administration without any advertisement. So it is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. These new workers were also employed through questionable ways that were devoid of federal character,” he said.
Some workers are therefore agitating that there should be a legislation that would stop appointed minister from jolting the system through arbitrary employment into parastatals, besides the appointment of directors, which by law is at their behest.