Dear Captain Yadudu,
I write you as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the purpose of this missive is to call your attention to the peculiar mess at the tollgate of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and to seek some clarifications on this peculiar mess.
Your role, Captain, is a very important role that few people actually stop to think about. Come to think of it, besides the revenue you generate and expenses you manage, you also oversee the safety of our airports; few people say it, but you also play a strategic role in our foreign affairs and international relations generally.
I highly hope your answer is “yes of course,” when I ask if you know that when organisations like Transparency International, foreign press, international observers and business inspectors as well as potential investors evaluate Nigeria, one of the major areas they look at are our airports. Sadly, if anyone of these visitors or partners and indeed anyone of us had travelled via or around the airport this past week what they met was a peculiar mess.
What is this peculiar mess?
To celebrate the first Monday of February 2020, hundreds of FAAN workers led by their unions decided to take over the collection of tolls at the entrance of the MMIA, Lagos. To take over the tollgate, they naturally had to forcefully eject those charged to manage the gates and collect fees at the gates.
That Monday action of FAAN workers brought to the attention of the general public a company, until then an unknown entity to many, registered as Integrated Intelligent Imaging West Africa, but fondly called I-CUBE.
Till the first Monday of February, the task of collecting of tolls at the gate of MMA had been done diligently by the sometimes friendly but generally innocuous looking staff of I-CUBE. Imagine the surprise and consternation of those I-CUBE staff when chanting FAAN staff led by their unions descended on the tollgates at about 7am. All they could was to go home quietly with no resistance.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of armed police and air force officers who in turn descended on the tollgates, sent away FAAN workers and their union leaders. It was a field day for motorist who drove through the tollgate for free. Many concluded that the officers came at the behest of I-CUBE.
By Wednesday morning, one of the major news from the Nigerian Aviation sector was that FAAN has terminated the concession of the tollgate of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos to its concessionaire, I-CUBE. Ironically the second major news from the Nigerian Aviation sector was about FAAN sensitizing stakeholders on quality service.
Captain, this is tremendous chaos and I am sure you would not have wanted nor allowed any of your flights to be managed in such a messy way.
FAAN staff and union say the deal between I-CUBE and FAAN is more of a scam than a deal. It was conceived based on corruption and fabricated largely to shortchange FAAN and the rest of Nigeria, they insist; they also maintain that they have warned FAAN management and even the Ministry of Aviation about their concerns and intentions.
I-CUBE on its part has not issued a clear statement, but so far it has mumbled that it has always paid what was agreed between the company and FAAN.
Where do you stand on behalf of FAAN and for Nigeria, Captain?
It is not a good sight where people, be it union or mob have to take the laws into their hands to right a wrong or to make a point. That is anarchy looming.
It is not a good thing for businesses to be told to pack up with immediate effect, it is a bad deal for their staff, vendors and investors, it is also a bad sign to potential investors foreign and national. That is uncertainty and it scares not encourage investors.
There appears not to be a clear account of how much revenue is generated at the tollgate. That is unacceptable in 2020. It is actually shameful to admit such in public. I will not dwell on such embarrassing flaw.
The way forward Captain, is to firstly admit that things have been badly managed thus far then commit to a more transparent and rigorous management style.
All stake holders and indeed the general public needs to be informed on why we even need to charge and pay toll near our airports. Everyone should know how much is coming in regularly. Whilst we are at it, we should also be told what the revenue is used on.
All should know why we need a concessionaire instead of using FAAN staff and how such concessionaire is chosen instead of another.
This peculiar mess displayed at our tollgate is a symbol of the many things wrong with our system, your clearing it will help us move towards sanity.
*Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos, you may reach him @anthonykila