Following the plan of the federal government to concession four major airports in the country and the resistance of the industry unions, the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has held a second meeting with union leaders in less than two weeks.
A source close to the meeting confided in our correspondent that the meeting was held at the Protea Hotel in Ikeja on Saturday night.
The first of such meetings was held on Tuesday, 6 September 2016 at the same venue where the union leaders vowed to oppose the planned concessioning, alleging that Mr. Sirika as a minister had an ulterior motive with the exercise.
Airports earmarked for concessioning are the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) and Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA) for the first phase of concession, which will be followed by the cargo designated airports.
All the leaders of the three major unions and their deputies were in attendance at the meeting while the Director-General of the Nigerian Authority of Civil Aviation (NCAA), Muhtar Usman, and the General Manager, Corporate Communications of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Yakubu Dati, and some other directors in the agencies followed Mr. Sirika to the meeting as part of the government’s delegation.
The unions were the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).
Benjamin Okewu, President of ATSSSAN, was in attendance with his Vice President, Mrs. Ridams. Others were the Secretary-General of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, and Isaac Balami, who represented NAAPE at the meeting.
At the meeting, it was gathered that Mr. Okewu told the minister that the unions would have to meet to determine whether they would support the government in its concession drive, especially since Mr. Sirika gave them the olive branch to be a part of the Project Delivery Committee, which is one of the two committees to ensure a successful concessioning exercise.
The other committee is the Project Delivery Committee with a charge on members to be diligent and patriotic in the implementation of the decisions and policy guidelines as approved by the Steering Committee, as their success or failure would determine the fate of the whole process.
However, at yesterday’s meeting, it was learnt that Mr. Sirika reiterated his earlier stance of going ahead with the concessioning exercise and also tried to enlighten the unions on the advantages of the exercise, stressing that government could no longer continue to expend inadequate resources on the industry.
“It was really a tense meeting where the unions bared it all and told the minister that they would kick against the exercise, but from the look of things, it seems Sirika has made up his mind to go ahead with the exercise without minding whose ox is gored," a source involved with the meeting told our correspondent.
“So far, both parties are yet to reach a compromise and there might be another meeting very soon on the matter.”
It would be recalled that NUATE had late last week called on Mr. Sirika to immediately stop the planned concessioning of four airports in the country, warning that this may lead to industrial unrest in the sector.
NUATE, in a communiqué issued after its annual general assembly meeting in Ilorin, Kwara State, had condemned the plot by Mr. Sirika to concession the airports that are considered as the only viable airports among the 22 controlled by FAAN as retrogressive.
The union further alleged that Mr. Sirika intends to concession the airports without recourse to extant rules, due process, social dialogue with stakeholders and other extant agencies connected with civil aviation in and out of Nigeria.