The recent federal government’s announcement of the concession of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja has provoked the ire of aviation unions.
It would be recalled that on September 11, the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo announced during the fifth presidential quarterly business forum held in Abuja that the federal executive council had approved the concession of the airports.
Osinbajo, who took to his tweeter handle said, “I am pleased to say that the federal executive council (FEC) has approved the concessioning of the Lagos and Abuja airports.”
But no sooner had Osinbajo dropped the hint than aviation stakeholders reacted differently to the concession plan.
The chairman, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Mr. Ahmed Danjuma, described the concession as “misplacement of priority.”
He said politicians had interfered in the running of aviation by flooding the agencies especially the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) without consulting the management of the organizations.
He said most of the airports were built for political reasons without considering the economic benefits to the nation.
He also said most of the airports depend largely on the viable ones for survival.
“Airports across the globe survive because they generate their revenue but in Nigeria, we use generated revenue from International Airport Lagos to maintain the others,” said Danjuma.
For Nigerian airports to pick up, Danjuma called on the government to desist from imposing workers on the agencies.
He said FAAN is in a position to effectively manage and maintain all the airports but regretted that heavy wage bill had stifled its operations.
Also speaking, the secretary general of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) Mr. Abdulrasaq Saidu said the union opposed the concession in view of alleged corruption that characterised past and present concessions.
He said almost all the revenue points at the airports had been given out to concessionaires.
For the executive director of Centurion Security, Group Capt John Ojukutu, the federal government was yet to tackle the real issues in the aviation sector.
Since the government was interested in giving out the airports to concessionaires, Ojikutu said taking loans from the Chinese government to build international terminals was uncalled for and ill-advised.
“It is expected that whatever government would give out for concession would be well-defined along these three features in order to avoid the pitfalls of the past attempts.
“Government must bear in mind existing agreements or concession with the Chinese government on the development of the four airports of Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano, with similar agreement with Bi-Courtney on part of Murtala Mohammed Airport. Government must also be mindful of the facts that about 12 out of about 20 federal airports are joint-users with the military and these include the international airports.
“Government should be very clear in its plan on what assets or infrastructure it would give for concession without disrupting the equilibrium of the existing agreements and joint-users arrangement.
“It should ensure that it includes the future of the remaining domestic airports in its concession plans. None of these should be left behind otherwise, the initial reasons for the concession would be defeated,” said Ojikutu.