Presidency Picks Holes in Airport Concession Plan

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Chinedu Eze

The Presidency has expressed dissatisfaction with the plan to concession airports, pointing out that despite that the campaign started last year, the process has not been defined by the Ministry of Transportation.

THISDAY learnt from a source who was present when the concession programme was reviewed recently in the Presidency and according to him, officials in the Presidency expressed dissatisfaction with the programme because no mileage has been achieved so far despite the campaigns and above all, the Ministry has not defined what should be concessioned at the airports.

“A lot of questions were raised in the Presidency about this concession plan recently. The President and the officials wanted to know what the Ministry wants to concession. Is it the whole airport or the airport terminals? If it is the whole airports who will be in charge of security? In all the concessions done all over the world, it is the airport terminals that are given out for concession.

“The Presidency did assessment of the security system and raised the question about who should be in charge of the runways, the tarmac and whether the planned concessionaire will build a new runway,” the source said.

The source who is an aviator and top government official observed that concession of airports usually involve the terminal buildings, but government is responsible for the aeronautical and safety critical services such as runway lights, fire service, apron control, “these are areas if not well managed could be exposed to security breach, which is very dangerous for sensitive areas like airports.”

The source urged the federal government to come out as quickly as possible to explain what it wants to concession at the airports so that Nigerians would know and those who want to invest in airport development would also know.

“At the five international airports in the country new terminals are being built, paid by government. There is on-going remodeling programme, which government is also paying for. So we want to know what the Ministry wants to concession and the modalities of the concession. It is the responsibility of government to effectively manage the runway and the airfield services, which are very critical in terms of safety and security and that is why government is in the custody of these facilities,” the source said.

THISDAY also learnt that the Presidency criticised the decision by the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator HadiSirika, to make himself the Chairman of the Concession Committee, noting that such position should have been given to a technical professional that would be in charge of the details of the negotiation.

Sirika at the inception of work as the Minister of State, Aviation announced that government would concession four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, and later other airports would follow.

The source said it is expected that by now the Minister should have been established the legal and administrative framework that would guide the concession programme, adding that if the Minister wanted to concession the whole airport then for security reasons they must not be given out to outsiders.

“Airports are national security assets, so they should not be given out; unless the terminals. For example, those running the Dubai airport have links with government. If you must concession the whole airport it must be given to a company that has links with government and government interest. Concession is good but it has to be well defined with attendant legal backing,” the source said.

Efforts to reach the Minister for comments did not succeed Also, the Special Adviser to the Minister on Private, Public Partnership (PPP), MustaphaJunaidu did not respond to a text message form THISDAY.