Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), a firm owned by Wale Babalakin and operator of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2) in Lagos, has disclosed that the Federal Government owes it N132 billion from a court judgment.
The firm’s Chief Executive Officer, Captain Jari Williams, made the claim in Lagos at an aviation stakeholders’ forum to discuss plans to concession four major airports in the country. Mr. Williams said that a court had delivered the judgment against the government for reneging on an agreement with Bi-Courtney on the construction of MMA2 on a public private partnership (PPP) basis.
The CEO also revealed that various groups, which included the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Arik Air and unions in the industry, had instituted no fewer than five court cases against BASL. He alleged that all the court cases against the company were part of a bid to scuttle the concession deal the terminal operator received from the Federal Government in 2003. He noted that the company had so far won all the court cases, even up to the Court of Appeal.
“However, despite all this, we remain undeterred with constant upgrade of the facilities at MMA2 and the introduction of new ones to meet international standards. We also have standard world-class facilities in readiness for regional operations. No doubt, this is costing us billions of naira in spite of the loss in revenue due to no fault of ours,” said Captain Williams. He added, “This has, however, not been the case in other terminals operated by FAAN. Besides the lack of maintenance of facilities at such airports, some of which are becoming obsolete, power outages, problems with stowaways and touting have been the order of the day. These problems are causing us a national embarrassment.”
The CEO insisted that the only way the terminals could experience positive growth was for the government to honor all concession plans. According to him, the PPP would permanently solve the myriad problems confronting the four airport terminals. He however urged that the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) be strengthened.
He also suggested that the government put in place an effective conflict resolution mechanism to resolve any issues that may arise with the proposed concessions.
“There is the need to educate the opposing aviation union workers and other Nigerians on the need to support the idea because it is the only way out. The government must not allow the experience of BASL in MMA2 to repeat itself again,” said Mr. Williams. The government, he added, “must obey to the letter any agreement it enters [into] with the prospective investors in the terminals to be concessioned and cooperate with the concessionaires in the interest of national development. Nigerian firms, especially with experience in airport development and management like BASL, must be considered first in the attempt to concession the four terminals.”
Bi-Courtney and the Federal Government have been entangled in a concession dispute since May 7, 2007. The firm had claimed that the concession agreement it reached with the government was for 36 years while the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) insisted that the agreement the government reached with the company was just for 12 years.
Bi-Courtney also claimed that its concession included the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of Lagos Airport, construction of a conference center within the premises of the airport, and the construction of a four-star hotel opposite the MMA2 terminal. FAAN disputes most of the firm’s claims.
A number of the concession agreements are currently the subjects of legal dispute in various law courts.