Experts Highlight Factors Impeding Airport Infrastructure Devt.

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Hadi Sirika
Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika

Chinedu Eze

Nigerians who are hoping that the federal government will concession airport facilities may have to wait longer as THISDAY investigation has revealed that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is a cash cow, which the federal government may not want to part with.

Industry experts believe that the solution to decayed and outmoded airport infrastructure was concession, which would enable the private sector to invest in airport facility development.

The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had repeatedly said the federal government would concession the airports, but THISDAY has gathered that government may not be inclined to doing that soon because of two factors. This include the fact that the Ministry controls everything that happens in FAAN and may not want to lose control of the agency.

The second factor is that, according to the Managing Director of the agency, Saleh Dunoma, most business activities at the airports had been given out in concession, including catering services, lounging, supplies and other businesses.

Dunoma had explained to THISDAY that it is the private sector that practically runs all the business activities at the airports.

Owing to this, industry experts posited that when the airports are given out in concession, there could be conflict of interests, which could snowball into crisis that would affect management of the airports.

THISDAY interviewed top officials of the agency who disclosed that the major reasons why the airports have remained in the current state of disrepair was because FAAN management does not take major and critical decisions on how the airport is run and argued that if government allows the management to take full charge of the airports the situation would be positively different.

One of the officials who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity said, “The interference in the activities of FAAN is not adding value to the aviation sector. Ideally the Ministry is expected to concentrate on policy issues based on reforms from the parastatals, but today the Ministry has got itself involved in the daily activities of the agency, thus making the Managing Director an errand boy.”

The official explained that the major reason why there is congestion at the airside of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos is because of the failure of the contractor that was awarded the contract to expand the cargo apron by the federal government who collected the full payment for the contract but did not do the job.

“The Ministry chose a contractor and give him the job. When the expansion of the apron was given to the contractor, he was mobilised with 70 per cent of the money and after sometime he was fully paid for the contract; yet, he did not do the job.

“The contract was awarded again and again and the money was paid but the work was not done. If you cannot control the contractor you are giving a job, how are you going to make sure that the job is done?” he said.

He said the Ministry could make the currently unviable airport viable by giving operators at the airports rebate and encouraging night stop by providing the facilities that would make airlines operate late to the airports.
He said FAAN management should be allowed to do its job, noting that it is only when it fails that government could consider giving out the facilities in concession.

“Until we allow the workers to do their job or hold them responsible, that is when we can move forward. But you cannot hold them responsible now that activities at the airports are dictated by people outside the management of the agency; so concession will be an option if the people fail.

“The situation now is that whatever the management wants to do it has to wait for people in Abuja to give go ahead. How can you run an airport in that manner? If it was FAAN management that gave the contract for the expansion of cargo apron at the Lagos airport, the job would have been done,” the official said.