Aviation Unions Kick against FG’s Plan to Concession Airports

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Chinedu Eze

Labour unions in the Nigerian aviation industry have kicked against the plan by the federal government to concession the country’s airports and bring in the private sector to invest in the development of the facilities.

The unions, at a world press conference held yesterday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, vowed to frustrate the government’s plan, saying they represent the interest of ordinary Nigerians, and therefore, would not support the handing over of the country’s wealth to few individuals.

Last week, the federal government announced that the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) had given the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, the certificate of compliance to concession four major airports in the country, including that of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.

Aviation unions, comprising the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE); Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN); Association of Aviation Professionals (ANAP), and National Union of Pensioners (NUP) branch of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), have vowed to stop the planned concession, saying the plan would only destabilise the country’s aviation progress rather than uplift it.

Speaking on behalf of the unions, NUATE General Secretary, Ocheme Aba, told journalists that the Minister of Aviation was allegedly fraudulent in his attempt to concession the airports.

He insisted that the plan to concession Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano was criminal and against public interest.
Aba argued that the airports slated for concession were the live wires of other 22 airports in the country, adding that several staff of the FAAN would lose their jobs.
He insisted that efforts to resolve the issue with the minster had been futile in the past, and vowed that the unions would continue to kick against the attempt.

He alleged: “It is highly regrettable that both the minister and ICRC are engaging in a ruse, and are indeed taking Nigerians for a ride. We can say authoritatively that everything so far about the issue of concession for the four airports have been single handedly decided by the minister, and the ICRC has not carried out any due diligence on the concession exercise. If it did, the commission would have discovered wide gulfs of deception in the exercise.

“For example, while the Project Delivery Team (PDT), which includes the ICRC, was still discussing the issue of Transaction Adviser (TA), the Minister of Aviation was on air announcing the approval of FEC of a TA and his fees. Both the TA and the fees were apparently decided solely by the minister. Up till date, the PDT has not been allowed to take a position on the matter, and its effort in that direction is being frustrated surreptitiously.”

The unions also explained that: “At the last meeting of the Project Delivery Team in late 2019, it was decided that the airports concession issue be degraded to the bottom of the list of aviation priority projects while upgrading the national carrier, Aviation Leasing Company, and the Aircraft Maintenance and Repair Organisation for quick delivery.”
They insisted that lack of sincerity in the whole process has confirmed that the concession programme would not serve the interest of Nigerians, and therefore, they must abort it before it takes off.