FG: Airport Concessions Necessary ahead of 60m Passenger Target

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Terms concession of MMA2 to Bi-Courtney not transparent
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The federal government on Tuesday said the planned concession of four international airports terminals is targeted at the provision of adequate world class infrastructure for an estimated 60 million passengers in the next 10 years.

It noted that over N1 trillion would be required to overhaul the airports and upgrade them to international standards, for which the funds are not currently available.

The Minister of State, Aviation, Mr. Hadi Abubakar Sirika, cited the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as having predicted that air traffic in Africa would quadruple in the next 10 years.

This, he said, indicates that Nigeria as a matter of urgency, has to boost the capacity of its airports which currently handle 15 million passengers, else the nation’s economy would be circumvented.
Sirika said these while speaking at the public hearing by the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation.

The committee, headed by Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (Abia PDP), had organised the hearing to meet with stakeholders on the need to save the aviation industry from imminent collapse.
The minister assured that the processes of concession would be transparent, and would be a departure from previous processes which he said were characterised by secrecy, under-dealings and exclusion of stakeholders.

Sirika refused to make a direct comment on the concession of terminal two of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, but made insinuations that the process was not transparent.

The company is owned by businessman, Mr. Wale Babalakin.
“When these things are not done transparently, you end up in court and in litigation. Yes, we thank him, but is this what Lagos, with its 23 million people, deserves? No! We want something more elaborate that can service the 60 million passengers,” the minister said.

“I am not interested, neither is my boss at the villa,” Sirika said, adding that the ministry intends to borrow from, and build on the manner of concession of the nation’s seaports.

He further disclosed that the government plans to concession 100 per cent of its 21 airports eventually, even though only four are up for concession in the first phase.
“What we plan to do in the Abuja airport for example is to put a brand new runway, and a brand new terminal opposite the current one,” he said and added that the projects are expected to be completed in 24-48 months with 30 million passenger capacity.

The minister recalled that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently approved a special foreign exchange policy for airlines to mitigate against the challenges in the industry.
The aviation industry unions represented at the hearing however reiterated their opposition to the planned concessions.

The National President of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association, Mr. Benjamin Okeowo, queried why the government was planning to concession only the economically viable airports.
He added that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) pays salaries, wages and pensions of workers from internally generated revenue most of which comes from the four airports.

This, he said, is in addition to the agency maintaining all airports in the country.
“What happens to the remaining 17 airports? We have staff in all these 17, what becomes of them when the viable four are taken over,” Okeowo said.
He added that about 35 per cent revenue is being lost to leakages through the non-implementation of a cashless policy in FAAN operations.

Onyejeocha, speaking earlier, harped on the need to restore confidence in aviation industry.
“We cannot be doing the same things over and over again and expect different results. The sector must not collapse not be allowed to stay under developed under our watch,” she said.
The hearing which continues for the next three days, was declared open by Deputy Speaker of House,  Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun.