- Experts, workers differ
The government of Nigeria has approved the concession of the two main airports in Nigeria, located at Lagos and Abuja.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced the development Monday, at the presidential quarterly business forum in Abuja.
Although, the Vice President did not disclose the preferred concessionaire, there are indications that the bidding for the aerodromes may have been concluded with plans to unveil them at a later date.
The Federal Government had made concessioning of the two major airports and the floating of a national airline as some of its plans for the aviation sector.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had in August 2016 inaugurated two committees to provide general direction and steer the course of Public Private Partnership, PPP, project concession in the aviation sector.
He said the committees known as Project Steering Committee and Project Delivery Committee was expected to kick start the concession process for the nation’s major airports.
According to him, the Federal Government’s resolve to concession the airports are for national interest in ensuring the establishment and sustenance of world class standards in both infrastructural development and service delivery.
Sirika said the concession was not to privatise the airports, noting that the property being concession still remained that of the Federal Government.
“The misgivings some people have expressed concerning the exercise was borne out of misconception that concession is synonymous with privatisation.“The institutions being concessioned remain the property of the Federal Government which will generate more jobs at the end of the day.’’
According to him, members of the concession process should ensure that all their activities are in compliance with the guidelines of the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
He said the Project Delivery Committee should approve action plans, budgets, financial requests and serve as the final decision-making body on PPP, concession matters on air transport generally.
Former Director of Operations of defunct Nigeria Airways, Captain Dele Ore said, “We can see that the government is looking at the recommendations that we have made in the past and are implementing it but it is not being done totally and we urge you to go back and look at our recommendations and totally implement it” he said.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce had thrown his weight to concession the two major airports in the country.
Murray-Bruce also said his committee was prepared to facilitate whatever laws were required to fast track the process.
The senator said: “As I speak to you today, all the nations with thriving aviation industries and the best and most successful airports are nations that have privatised their aviation industry and their airports.
“My committee is prepared to facilitate whatever laws are required to fast track the privatisation of our airports.
“We are also determined to ensure that Nigeria’s privatisation laws have irrevocable and irreversibility clause, so that no new government can just come in and reverse what the previous government did with the strike of a pen.”
According to him, Nigeria cannot make progress if the privatisation exercise is in jeopardy every time there is change of government.
But workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria had stated that they would reject the concession plan of the government.
The workers, under the aegis of the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association and the National Union of Air Transport Employees, have vowed to resist the move.
In a statement, which was signed by the Assistant General Secretary, NUATE, Mr. Olayinka Abioye, the workers accused the government of not putting their interest in consideration in the airport concession plans.
Abioye said, “When the defunct Nigeria Airways was liquidated, workers were left to die without their severance pay or pensions, which rose to over N72bn.
“Government, particularly, in the last 10 years has been shifting its core responsibilities and this may be due to globalisation. There is nothing wrong with that if it is purpose-driven and done with honesty. With what we are seeing, we do not believe that Nigeria is ripe for concession and privatisation of public utilities.”