Aviation unions reject airport concession

Controversy has continued to trail the recent directive by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to demolish offices of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in Lagos.

The aviation unions threatened to resist the directive while questioning the minister’s decision to proceed with the concession of four international airports amid various labour issues that were yet to be resolved.

At the headquarters of FAAN on Thursday, the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, the National Union of Air Transport Employees and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals held an emergency congress meeting, where they vowed to resist the minister’s directive for the offices of the agencies to be demolished to give room for an aerotropolis project.

The Secretary General, NUATE, Ocheme Abah, who spoke on behalf of the unions, said that for various reasons unknown to him, none of the minister’s projects had been delivered to date, wondering why he was in a hurry to deliver the projects for an administration at its twilight.

He said the rush to deliver at all costs had caused suspicion and a plethora of missteps which, if not corrected, would spell doom for the aviation industry.

“We place on record our recognition of the large footprints of the Muhammadu Buhari administration on the aviation industry in Nigeria. The progress registered through the efforts of Sirika and the CEOs of the agencies in the past seven years are indelible. Though not visible to the larger public, huge modernisation programmes and projects have been achieved in the Nigeria Metrological Agency, Accident Investigation Bureau, Nigerian Air Space Management Agency, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. These achievements have not only significantly improved flying experience in the Nigerian air space, but have had big impact on human capacity development and safety.

“However, our hearts are now greatly troubled to be witnesses to the ongoing bastardisation of the lofty objectives of the Aviation Road Map. Activities around the implementation of the roadmap tend to suggest that a ploy is afoot to deny Nigeria the benefits of its labour and natural endowments, or to divert such to private ends.”

According to the unions, nothing evidenced this more than the fact that key decisions and actions around the projects were taken outside the statutory organs of the ICRC.

Speaking on the concessioning of airports, Abah said that ever since the decision to concession the four most major airports was taken, the unions had remained strongly opposed to the idea, noting that the unions had been firm and vehement in their opposition to the type of concession envisioned by the transaction adviser.

“We unearthed several booby traps, outright falsehoods and deliberate manipulation of facts to skew the transaction against the interest of Nigeria, which we communicated to the Minister and other arms of government.

Article first published on the Punch Website

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