• As minister shuns committee
By Adedayo Akinwale
The House of Representatives has directed the Ministry of Aviation to suspend the planned concessioning of four airports pending the resolution of the contentious issues raised by the unions and other stakeholders.
The federal government recently announced that it had commenced the concession process for four new international airport terminals including Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.
The House Committee on Aviation gave the directive to halt the concession process on Monday in Abuja following the refusal of the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to appear before it and clear grey areas as regards the planned concessioning of the four airports.
The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr. Hassan Musa, had told the committee that the minister could not make it because he was attending a public hearing on a bill at the Senate.
However, the excuse did not go down well with the members of the committee who said the minister deliberately refused to appear despite the seriousness of the issue.
The committee also said the minister, even though, he was a former lawmaker has no regard for the committee.
The committee therefore decided to suspend all actions concerning the concession until the minister comes around.
The Chairman of the committee, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, said everybody was aware of the terrible impact of Covid-19 on the aviation sector, which he said would take a while for the industry to recover, hence, the need for the committee to strive to do whatever is necessary to help stabilise the sector..
He recalled that in September or thereabouts, the committee had interactions with the representatives of the labour unions on this subject matter.
Nnaji noted that during the meeting, which was sequel to the committee’s earlier intervention over the unions’ strike against the concession, a lot of concerns were raised by the representatives of the labour unions regarding the airports’ concession.
The chairman noted that among the concerns were the lack of transparency in the exercise, labour issues, the Chinese loans, the legal issues that may arise from the existing concessions and the lack of proper valuation of the present status of the affected airports, among others.
Nnaji stated: “Based on the outcome of the meeting with the labour unions, the committee invited the Minister of Aviation and the Heads of Agencies under him to discuss the issue of the airports’ concession. Several dates were fixed for the meeting but for one reason or the other, they failed to attend.
“The committee had also received several letters from stakeholders both in favour and against the airports’ concession. In view of this, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation hereby requests that the concession of the four airports should be put on hold pending the resolution of the contentious issues raised by the unions and other stakeholders to avoid industrial actions that may further cripple the already distressed industry.
“We are hopeful that at the end of the day, our intervention would provide opportunity for all the parties to reach a common ground that will move a aviation industry forward.”
Speaking with journalists after the adjournment of the hearing to a yet-to-be-fixed date, the permanent secretary said the process of the airports concessioning was slow because the ministry wants to follow the due process.
He added: “Nothing will be done contrary to our laws, rules and constitution of this country. That is why it is taking time. We could have done it long time ago and the union are also part of the team that has been looking at the concession.”