Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
Workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria ( FAAN) under the aegis of the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) yesterday staged a protest to express their disapproval of plans by the federal government to concession the Lagos and Abuja Airports.
A fortnight ago, the federal government gave approval for the concession of the nationâ€™s four major airports, starting with the Lagos and Abuja Airport.
The workers re-emphasised their opposition, arguing that government was not transparent in the process and that it would lead to mass sack of workers without any plan by government to protect their interest.
Scores of FAAN workers stormed the Freedom Square leading to the entrance of the FAANâ€™s headquarters to draw attention to what they described as the illegal selling of the airports to people who are unknown to them.
President of ATSSSAN, Illitrus Ahmadu, said the workers were opposed to the concession of airports because the template is not clear to them and the parameters being used by government to select the would be concessionaire.
Ahmadu said the workers would use every instrument at their disposal to battle government to frustrate the concession of airports.
He said the unions must be united to protect their collective interest of protecting their jobs.
Also speaking, General secretary of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Olayinka Abioye, said the unions would mobilise to frustrate airports concession moves by government.
He said government needed to engage the unions before government could consider the concession of the airports so that every stakeholder would be carried along in the process.
Abioye said issues that would arise from the concession of the airports including job losses should be properly looked into, noting that government has to define what it actually wishes to concession at the airports and remarked that most services and parts of the airport had already been concessioned by FAAN.
He alleged that the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, should demonstrate transparency on the concession of airports.
He said FAAN has 64 legal cases over concessions that have not been resolved, yet government wants to go ahead to concession the airports.
Abioye vowed that despite approval for the concession by government, aviation unions would mobilise against the concession of airports.
Abioye alleged that Sirika has not shown transparency in his handling of issues in the industry and canvassed corporatization or commercialisation of FAAN, to form airport companies to bring about effective airport systems.
He added that one of the reasons why the airports are not run efficiently is unbridled interference in their management by government officials in the Ministry of Transportation and the presidency.
At the Ilorin International Airport ATSSAN and NUATE members yesterday equally protest the concession of some airports by the federal government.
The workers blocked all roads leading into and out of the airport.
Some were also seen with placards with inscriptions such as: â€˜No to concession because is evilâ€™, â€˜Sirika must go – enemy of progressâ€™, â€˜No to airport concessioning,â€™ among others.
The Chairman of ATSSAN, Alonge Isaac, while speaking journalists during the protest, said they are all part of government but that what they are after was for things to work out well for all in the aviation industry.
According to him, â€œIt usually pain us when things are not working out fine.. What is government mission for the concession of airport? We are saying no to concession with one voice. We want government to come to round table with us and see how we can join hands to make sure that things work out perfectly.â€
Also speaking, the Secretary of NUATE, Sanni Abdulazeez, disclosed that the protest was suppose to hold in Abuja and Lagos alone but later got call late last night for all airport workers to join it.
He said: â€œThere is nothing wrong in concessioning but due process must be followed, they should discuss with the workers too because they are also stakeholder. Government should come to a round table with the workers and seek their opinion. It is not a welcome idea for government to just announce concession in the media without considering the interest of the workers and other stakeholders.â€