• FAAN has shown complete disregard to constituted authority and the law, says Babalakin
The Chairman of the Bi- Courtney Group, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), yesterday said the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has violated and desecrated the principles of the rule of law, failing to comply with court judgments on his company’s concession of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2).
Babalakin said this during his presentation to the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation in Abuja, on ‘The Need to Rescue the Airline Industry from Imminent Collapse’.
In an explosive session that saw dramatic exchanges involving several stakeholders, including FAAN, the Ministry of Aviation and Airport Workers’ Unions, Babalakin insisted that the concession had been very transparent. Making reference to a memorandum earlier submitted to the panel, titled: ‘The Need to Comply With The Laws of Nigeria’, the famous lawyer declared that “the time has come to bring into the open completely the issue of Bi-Courtney’s concession.”
Speaking on day three of the hearing, he flayed comments attributed at an earlier session to the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who has suggested that the concession was not transparent.
“That statement is totally false and anybody making such is not dealing with facts.
“The Minister of Aviation passed adverse statements when he appeared (at this hearing). We want to state that that is his personal opinion,” Babalakin declared.”
Going into the history of the concession, originally granted to Sanderton Ventures Ltd (SVL) and later taken over by Bi-Courtney as reserved bidders after SVL’ failure to deliver, Babalakin accused FAAN of ineptitude in virtually all of its dealings regarding the concession.
“If FAAN is not embarrassed, we feel totally disgraced as Nigerians.”
He stated that FAAN pays N50million per month as damages to Sanderton, noting that this was due to the agency’s failure to defend itself.
Regarding MMA2, Babalakin observed that FAAN’s initial design was grossly inadequate, saying of the one executed by Bi-Courtney, “we daresay that this design is better than anything that has ever been suggested before. As it is today, we are only utilising 30 per cent of MMA2; 70 per cent is idle.”
He lamented that elements of the design had so far not been approved, or blocked, including: Hotel and Conferencing facilities, a Mono Rail, Fuel Hydrant and a Power Plant. This, he suggested, has not enabled the Nigerian Aviation industry to fulfill its potential. He also reiterated that federal government owes Bi-Courtney N132billionn in damages, for which interests continue to accrue.
“FAAN has shown complete disregard to constituted authority and the laws of Nigeria,” said Babalakin, who noted that the concession has been subject to six appeals by various interests, all won by Bi-Courtney. “It is incongruous, it is primitive to have an operator as a regulator. FAAN is a regulator competing with the concessionaire,” he declared.
Representing FAAN was its DGM (PPP) Mrs. Monica Alphonse, who outlined what she said were the agency’s grounds for non-compliance. Arguments ranged over a number of issues including: the status of the General Aviation Terminal (Domestic Airport 1), the contested 12 years and 36 years duration of the MMA2 concession, and whether the Attorney General of the Federation could compel FAAN to comply with the judgment of the court. Labour leader Okewu Benjamin, President, ATSSSAN, also made a dramatic intervention which led Babalakin to observe that he “would do well as a fiction writer.”
Two aviation unions went to court over Bi-Courtney’s concession agreement, and lost. FAAN has also lost court cases every step of the way, as judgments have consistently favoured Bi-Courtney’s position.
According to Babalakin, “The issue is structural. If you are going to have a good concession, the regulator should not be an operator.”
He advised that, (concession agreement) documentation must be well done, well prepared, and the parties must abide by the terms as well as court judgments, whether you win or lose.”
Closing his presentation, Babalakin said: “I support concession, but I do not support the way the Ministry of Aviation) is trying to do it.” He argued that the process should be handled by outside parties with no discernible interest in the outcome.
In conclusion, Onyejeocha observed that the hearing session showed that, “All the stakeholders – FAAN, Labour and Bi-Courtney – agree that there needs to be transparency.”
The four-day hearing concludes today.