Workers Threaten Showdown With FG over Planned Airport Concession

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Chinedu Eze

Workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), who were aggrieved that the federal government did not carry them along in the planned concession of airport facilities, have vowed to scuttle activities in all the 22 airports.

The workers are insisting that if government must go ahead with the concession of the facilities, it must meet their (workers’) condition of service-their welfare, which must include severance package, gratuities and pensions, failing, which they would ground activities in all the airports.

The workers’ intransigent stems from their scepticism that government their interests would be protected, if they were not carried along in the concession plan.

A senior official of the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), FAAN branch, who would not want him name in print, told THISDAY on Wednesday that workers were shortchanged in all the concessions carried out by government in different sectors of the economy; from the sale of NITEL, ports, Mtel as well as the liquidation of the Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL).

“The workers are worried that the previous concession and sales of government assets were not done in transparent manner. A handful of people ganged up with top government officials to buy over those assets; so we don’t have fate in government and from the way they are going about this planned airport concession, it won’t be different,” the labour official, who is also a senior official of FAAN said.

The official however said that if the government follows due process and carries the workers along, they (workers) would support the plan, adding that so far there is nothing to suggest that the government would do anything different from what it has done in the past.

“What we are asking for is our gratuity, our pension and our severance pay. They should come so that we discuss, if they insist on selling these national assets or they want to concession them; we know that it is not right to sell national assets during recession because government will lose money, but if you allow these assets to appreciate government will earn more. What they will get from the concession now will not even be enough to settle the workers,” the official said.

He noted that “passenger traffic grow gradually and not overnight, so even if the airports are given out in concession it does not mean there will be passenger surge and the concessionaire may not even be able to recoup his investment at the stipulated time.”

“FAAN is self-sustaining. It pays its workers; it manages the airports and pays money to government despite government’s interferences. What we are asking government is to allow FAAN to operate on its own. All the projects carried out in FAAN were funded from internally generated revenue, except the remodeling programme. We took loan from China.

By the way, what is government giving out in concession? What is pressing to us now is the building of second runway in Abuja. Let government give out that in concession and then get a investor to build modular terminal and compete with us under the build, operate and transfer (BOT) arrangement, like what they did with Bi-Courtney and MMA2,” the unionist said.

He expressed concern that government wants to concession the most lucrative airports instead of the ones that are sustained and serviced from the revenues generated from the four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, which they now plan to concession.