Aviation unions have accused Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), operator of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2), Lagos, of owing the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) over N2 billion arising from the concession agreement it entered into with the federal government in 2007.
The unions also issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, to revert the impending concession of the two airports in the first phase or face strike action, which would paralyze the entire aviation industry.
Speaking at a press conference organized at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport on Tuesday, leadership of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), declared that since the commencement of the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) scheme in 2007, the terminal operator has not paid the FAAN.
NUATE General Secretary Olayinka Abioye, who spoke on behalf of all unions present, said BASL has accrued a debt of over N2 billion comprising of various fees for services rendered to it by the FAAN.
He provided the following breakdown of debts owed by BASL: aviation security, N1.2bn; management fees, N331m; fire and safety, N131.2m; marshaling service, N2.1m; electricity, N439m; rent and conference, N87.8m; and hotel fees, N116.9m.
“As these magnitudes of debts outstanding against Bi-Courtney are yet to be settled in favor of the FAAN, how can we guarantee that the federal government of Nigeria, through our ministry, will not unleash another monster on the FAAN in the name of concession?” Mr. Abioye said.
“Until matters such as this are resolved, aviation unions shall not rest on their oars and allow these shenanigans to continue. If we really and genuinely desire a business model that can fit our expectations, we should think of other models, such as the Green Field model, which empowers new investors with deals on fresh ventures, including construction of new runways, terminal buildings and so forth to be operated for a specified period of time before it is handed over to the government, or the corporatization model.
“Why not allow the airports to run as commercially oriented profitable concerns with accountability to shareholders, who may be government agencies or private investors? We had canvassed for the full commercialization of the FAAN long ago, albeit without the usual political, ministerial, presidential, or official meddlesomeness and interference, which has been the bane of lackluster performance and failure of the aviation system in Nigeria.”
The unions also charged the government to disband the Transaction Advisors (TA) it set up to midwife the concessioning of the airport in the next 15 days or face total grounding of the aviation industry.
The unions also advised the federal government to kick-start the concession exercise with one or two underutilized airports as a pilot scheme, noting that if the pilot project was successful, it could be replicated in other airports across the country.
“When these other airports become a success story as envisaged by the government, then, and only then, can the idea of sharing the big four be entertained,” the unions added.