As the Federal Government prepares to concession Nigeria’s two most viable airports in the country, union leaders have voiced their determination to fight to scuttle the government’s plans.
A source who is an official of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) told our correspondent today that the unions were strategizing on how to frustrate the government’s concession bid.
Another source told our correspondent today that Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was seeking to use some Portuguese cronies of his to handle the concession of Nigeria’s two major airports, in Lagos and Abuja.
The source alleged that Mr. Sirika hoped to make millions of naira from the deal to concession the two airports for 10 years. The source said the unions had held a series of secret meetings, most of them in Lagos, to deliberate on strategies to stop the government from going ahead with the concession plan. He said one possible move would be a major strike to paralyze the industry.
Also speaking on the issue, Comrade Ahmed Danjuma, chairman of ATSSSAN at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), told our correspondent that the concession program was not the best option out of the present challenges facing the agency. Mr. Danjuma itemized misplacement of priority and political interference in the running of the entire system as some of the severe problems challenges facing the sector, most especially FAAN.
According to Mr. Danjuma, political appointees,especially ministers, flood the agencies with their cronies without consultation with the management of the organizations.
SaharaReporters learned that a former minister in the sector, Stella Oduah, recruited about 2,000 appointees in all the agencies before her unceremonious removal in February 2014 while Mr. Sirika has so far engaged at least 200 people in different aviation agencies since his appointment in October 2015.
Mr. Danjuma argued that most of the airports in Nigeria remained unviable because they were constructed for political reasons, stressing that most of the 18 airports depended largely on the four viable ones.
He added that airports in other countries survive because they are maintained with the revenue generated by the same airports, noting that the reverse was the case in Nigeria.
“Airports across the globe survive because they sustain the airport with revenue generated by those airports. But in Nigeria, we use the generated revenue from international Airport Lagos, to maintain others,” said Mr. Danjuma.
He insisted that, for agencies in the industry to operate according to international standards, the imposition of workers by politicians must stop. If that happened, he said, FAAN was in the position to effectively manage and maintain all airports in the country.
The Secretary General of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Abdulrasaq Saidu, said that the unions had resolved at a meeting held on Tuesday in Lagos to oppose any form of concession in view of past and present corrupt tendencies being applied to favor a few individuals.
“We say no to [concession], and we shall fight it with the last blood in us. We wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari on its danger, especially the security of the country. We asked questions, which are unanswered till date and we must be given full details,” said Mr. Saidu.
He added that almost all the revenue points at the airports had been concessioned, wondering if there was any other available area to be concessioned by the government.
Also, the chairman of Century Security, Group Captain John Ojukutu (rtd), said there was no clear term as to what the government wanted to concession.
Mr. Ojukutu urged the government to declare the areas to be concessioned, adding that it would be wrong to concession certain sides of airports that have to do with security.
The former airport commandant urged the government to invite Nigeria’s best entrepreneurs to take over the management of the airport terminal buildings. He suggested that anyone who takes over the Lagos and Abuja airports should also be willing to take responsibility for smaller airports as well.
He queried the rationale behind the government’s plan to concession only two airports out of the 22 in the country, arguing that rather than concentrate on just two or four, the government should equally focus its attention on the others, especially the less viable ones.