By Chinedu Eze
The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), Dr Wale Babalakin, has called for the transparent concession of Nigeriaâ€™s airports, noting that it is the only solution to obsolete airport infrastructure, lack of critical facilities and stagnancy in the industry.
Babalakin made this known yesterday in Lagos when he chaired the 10th years anniversary of the Murtala Muhammed Airport domestic terminal, known as MMA2, which was built and is being operated by BASL.
He expressed support to the plan by the federal government to concession the airports but noted that for the objective of the concession programme to be realised, it must be done transparently without pandering to any interests.
â€œGovernment cannot develop airport infrastructure because it may not have the resources to do so. This is because government has to first meet the basic needs of the citizens. We are still at the stage of meeting the basic needs of Nigerians, which include education and health; so airport and other infrastructure can be provided by the private sector, but for the private sector to invest in such facilities there must be rule of law and such rule of law must be obeyed. So let the concession be done in accordance to the rule of law and be done transparently,â€ Babalakin said.
He called on the federal government to honour its agreement with BASL which stipulated that every domestic commercial airline operation must emanate from the MMA2 and noted that it was illegal for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to allow schedule flight services to be taking place at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT ) of the Lagos airport.
Babalakin also said BASL does not owe Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) any money; rather, it should be government that should pay the company about N200 billion and based on the Nigerian laws, BASL owes AMCON no money.
â€œWe call on the regulatory authorities to honour our concession agreement. This is a way to honour our efforts. No nation can really actualise its potential without abiding by the rule of law,â€ Babalakin said.
In his welcome speech, the Chief Executive Officer of BASL, Captain Jary Willimans, said MMA2 is the first privately-funded, Design,Â Build, Operate and Transfer (DBOT)Â terminal in Nigeria, which was inaugurated in May 2007 by the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Â According to him, the terminal has the capacity to facilitate four million passengers per annum with modern facilities, such as self-service check-in kiosks, automated access gates, as well as passenger and baggage reconciliation system, adding that MMA2 is the first and only terminal to deploy such in Nigeria.
â€œThe terminal has an obvious passenger and airline demand due to its safety, efficiency and technology. Over the years, MMA2 has been home to major airlines flying to various destinations in Nigeria. MMA2 has handled over 20 million passengers, 400,000 flights and created employment opportunities for over 100,000 people in the past 10 years. The award-winning terminal is also home to retail outlets, shops, restaurants and banks offering a wide range of products,â€ Babalakin said.
Â He said despite the opposition that has stifled the project, the terminal â€œis a product of courage and tenacity.â€
This is significant because what started out in a modest way has become the benchmark for how airport terminals should be run.
The Chairman of the Resport Group, said MMA2 was the first successful Public Private Partnership (PPP) in Nigeria, which has changed the face of the aviation industry, leading to airlines and passengers demandingÂ forÂ better services from government-run airports.
Â â€œThe courage to maintain the facilities amidst stiff opposition is aÂ lesson for private investors wishing to invest in the concession opportunities now made available by government,â€ he said.