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Unions threaten showdown over proposed airport concession

Aviation unions are warming up for a nationwide protest against the airport concession programme of the Federal Government.

While the President Muhammadu Buhari regime, at the weekend, reiterated that the scheme was irreversible on account of its lean purse to efficiently manage the gateways, the unions stood their ground, saying giving the critical facilities to profit-driven private investors was not in the best interest of Nigerians.

The Guardian, yesterday, gathered that the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professional (ANAP), will this week, mobilisise members for the nationwide opposition.

Government has since 2017 begun moves to concession all of the country’s 22 airports, beginning with the big four in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.

Coincidentally, the prestigious gateways were products of a 2013 loan deal between Nigeria and China with those of Kano and Lagos yet to be completed.

The unions, earlier, requested for details of the $500 million credit for the four terminals, especially the add-on plans to concession them.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who spoke at a webinar forum, organised by the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), defended the move amid objections, maintaining that government had no money to invest in the airports.

He pointed out that the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos terminal, built in 1979 for 200,000 passengers, currently processes nearly eight million flyers, lamenting that the facilities have been overstretched.

General Secretary of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, observed that there “remains no clarity on the question of the semi-concession that already exists through the Chinese loan.”

The unions, in a statement, alleged that the minister had usurped the duties of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in the concession arrangement, adding that the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) should have a statutory deal with the agency instead of individuals.

Deputy General Secretary of ATSSSAN, Frances Akinjole, said it was “regrettable that FAAN had nothing to do with any project identification, prioritisation or concept note to the ICRC as required by the ICRC’s protocols.”

Chairman, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), observed that the “inability of the Federal Government to honour agreements it signed with the private investors” was behind the low capital inflow and alleged under-development of the sector.

On his part, former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, warned that nobody would invest in the industry country until all pending issues in court were resolved.

The stakeholders, therefore, called on the government to make the exercise very transparent in the interest of the citizenry. IN the meantime, FAAN, yesterday, said it had launched a probe into alleged evacuation racketeering involving some of its employees at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.

The affected workers were allegedly collecting fees from passengers under the guise of evacuation flights.Its General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Henrietta Yakubu, who confirmed the development, advised the public against giving money to officials.

Source: guardian.ng