Unions Kick as FG Mulls Airports’ Concession

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Chinedu Eze

Aviation labour unions have issued threats to the federal government over the approval it received from the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to concession Nigeria’s four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has reiterated that concessioning of the facilities would pave way for private investors to invest in airport modernisation. This, he had said was the key to aviation development of the Buhari administration.

But unions in the aviation sector have vowed to resist the planned concession of the major airports.

Arising from an extraordinary emergency Joint Action Committee meeting on Wednesday, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) branch said due process was violated by government and thereby the interests of Nigerians and workers could be protected.

The unions insisted that government cannot protect the interest of the workers when the airports are concessioned, adding that they could suffer what workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways whose personnel were not compensated for several years until the current administration paid severance package to those still alive and “they have not even completed the payment.”

The aviation unions vowed to stop the process, warning that with the current situation, FAAN workers and pensioners nationwide have been placed on alert for further directives, threatening to paralyse activities when flights resume at the airports.

The unions also enjoined all FAAN workers and pensioners to embark on a one week of prayer and fasting starting from today.

Industry consultant and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe in reaction to the agitation of the labour unions told THISDAY that FAAN workers should concern themselves with their retirement and reverence payment and not with the future of airports because the concern of government is to create jobs for the teeming youths of Nigeria and such jobs cannot be created in the aviation industry without the modernisation and expansion of the airport infrastructure through concession.

He argued that concession would open up the airports, generate multibillion-naira revenue and create thousands of new jobs.

Aligbe also noted that the intractable problems that bedeviled the airports like the provision of safety critical facilities would be solved when the airports is injected with fresh funds by private investors, adding that government does not have the money to invest in airport infrastructure; not when it has other essential amenities like hospitals, schools and security to contend with.

Receiving the Outline Business Case Certificate of Compliance from the Director-General of the ICRC, Chidi Izuwah, in Abuja, Sirika had said the next step was to seek approval from the Federal Executive Council to commence the full concession.

“With these certificates of compliance we will go-ahead to the Federal Executive Council for approval for the full business of concession to proceed and that will turn the airport terminals to its full potential in private hands as millions of dollars would be pumped into the airports,” he had explained.

Sirika, had, however, commended the ICRC for ensuring compliance and value for money, transparency, equity, and fairness.

He also expressed satisfaction with the quality of work done by the Transaction Advisers, which resulted in the release of the certificates by the ICRC.

The minister, had noted that with the full implementation of the airport terminal concession about two hundred and forty one thousand seven hundred additional jobs would be created in the aviation industry.

In his remarks, Izuwah had said the Ministry of Aviation adopted Public-Private Partnership (PPP) as the strategy to leverage on private sector participation and investment in order to achieve the upgrade and development of new terminal infrastructure at the four airports in a cost-effective and value -for- money manner.

He said airports in Nigeria have great potential but were currently operating at sub-optimal level due to factors that would have to be improved under the PPP programme.