By Chinedu Eze
Members of the organised labour have expressed dissatisfaction with the handing over of state-owned airports to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) without additional budgetary allocation by the federal government.
The President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ben Nnabue said FAAN workers were peeved that no additional money was given to FAAN but the federal government.
“That is exactly what we are saying. In the budget of FAAN we didn’t make any provision for acquiring more airports but the Ministry of Aviation imposes airports on us without additional budget allocation. It means that they want to kill FAAN. They said FAAN does not have the capacity to manage airports; yet you are adding more airports for the agency to manage. This is a paradox,” NUATE President said.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika confirmed recently that the federal government had taken over the airports in Kebbi, Osubi, Dutse and handed them over to FAAN, saying discussion was ongoing between the federal government and the state government for the handing over of the Gombe airport to FAAN.
Industry consultant and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe, told THISDAY that the states that handed over the airports to FAAN saw it as national patrimony, so that FAAN would be bringing money to run the airports. He noted that by handing the facilities to FAAN, their expectation would be that money would be flowing in from the centre to run the airports.
“The burden on FAAN is heavy and the states that build the airports don’t contribute anything. Up till now no palliatives have been given to FAAN or any of the agencies, but I don’t see how states should build airports and hand them over to FAAN.
“They know that they are white elephant projects and they have made money from the airports but now they don’t want to fund their maintenance but hand them over to FAAN,” Aligbe said.
Some FAAN workers decried the fact that all the airports handed over to FAAN do not generate revenues that can sustain their maintenance and payment of salary of personnel; so it means that the same budget FAAN uses to maintain other airports it would use to maintain the additional ones.
Aligbe suggested that FAAN should become more innovative and think out of the box in order to find ways to make the airports profitable and viable.
“FAAN should think ahead to find innovative ways to make each airport viable.
FAAN should draw a strategy and evolve a model for each airport to make them generate revenue beyond aeronautical sources and states should give out part of the ownership of the airports to investors to use part of the facilities for other businesses in order to make them viable,” Aligbe said.
But the Managing Director of Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo, said FAAN must not run all the airports.
“Why does the federal government continue to hold airports in Schedule 1? Government should only be interested in having FAAN run the airports of entry and profitably too. What is too much in an airport for a management company to run? What is too much in an airport for even a state to run? Every state should be encouraged to establish an airport of not more than 2000 meters runway length excluding clearway length.
“Where are all the prematurely retired FAAN staff? Are they unable to utilise their experience at state airport companies? FAAN is suffering the yoke of the weight of its greed. The rules and standards to run airports are clearly spelt by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) annexes. Airports are licensed and subject to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and state security regulations.
“Airports are meant to be state infrastructure like schools and hospitals. They do not need to make profit but are to complement social growth. But as usual, Nigeria case is different. Airport wants to compete with banks to declare territory and profit. To summarise, we are just too blinded by greed and continue to sponsor obsolete laws that regard our society,” Boyo said.