Unions vow to stop FG’s airport city project

Aviation stakeholders have expressed concern over the Federal Government’s aerotropolis project, saying it is impacting workers’ welfare negatively.

This was part of the fallouts of the recent emergency meeting held by members of the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals in Abuja.

They vowed to resist the directive by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on the demolishment of offices of government agencies such as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Accident Investigation Bureau, and Nigerian Meteorological Agency located within the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

The agencies are meant to be demolished to give room for the government’s airport city programme called aerotropolis project.

The Secretary-General, National Union of Air Transport Employees, Ochema Abah, said the Federal Ministry of Aviation had failed to pay the relocation allowance of workers in the affected agencies under its purview for over a year.

Abah said the staff members who were relocated without proper preparation were in Abuja suffering, adding that they lack offices to work.

He said, “For all the organisations that moved their headquarters to Abuja without any preparation, all the staff members sent to Abuja are yet to receive their relocation allowance one year after.

“If you go around the so-called headquarters, you will see staff loitering around. They are just suffering and their families are here in Lagos suffering because they have not received their relocation allowances up till now.”

He argued that the aviation ministry sent members of staff to the agencies under it on transfer all over the country without adequate preparation for their welfare and the specification of their jobs in their new stations.

According to him, the union felt that the government should have made the necessary arrangements and consultations before deciding to demolish the structures.

“Our position is that if there is any demolition, we will cause a disruption of work at all the airports. They have not reached out to us for any consultation,” Abah said.

In May 2020, the Federal Ministry of Aviation ordered all aviation agencies and parastatals to move their corporate headquarters to Abuja within 45 days.

The aviation minister, Sirika, via the ministry’s Twitter handle, explained that the directive was an attempt to enforce the 2012 presidential directive that ordered all government agencies to move their headquarters to the Federal Capital Territory.

Controversies have continued to trail the minister of aviation’s directive to demolish these offices in Lagos.

Speaking with our correspondent, an aviation stakeholder and Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Safety and Security Consult, John Ojikutu, said, “You cannot build an aerotropolis within the airport. Aerotropolises are built at the boundary between the airport and the urban area. I have been telling them. I have gone around the airport with the MD of FAAN and carried everybody in the GAT to the other side of the airport, around Shasha and Ejigbo areas. The land there is about five kilometres. Why not go there?

“Why are they not going there? They have sold those lands. The past managements of FAAN have sold the land.”

He advised FAAN to sue the Lagos State Government over land, asking if the state government had given the buyers of the land certificates of occupancy.

He noted that if the Lagos State government had given C of O to buyers of the land, it would not deny knowing that the land belongs to FAAN.

He urged FAAN to recover the land and build an aerotropolis on it.

Ojikutu claimed, “If the minister does what he says he wants to do, he will create a security problem there, because the single airport that links the international to the domestic airport has no public road. I have been mentioning that for more than 20 years. It is a service road. The tollgate that they put there is wrong. It should be before you enter the airport at the domestic end or before you enter the international on the other side, not between the terminals. It is wrong. They are going to create a security problem.

“We are having traffic gridlock in that area, which should not be. So, if they put anything there, they will create more hold up. I told FAAN way back during ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s time not to allow Bi-Courtney to build a hotel there. Don’t allow him to put the car pack there. The problem I have with the car park there is that from there, you will be looking into the terminal, especially the presidential terminal.”

He disclosed that he had called for the movement of the terminal to where Bi-Courtney built the hotel, adding that the terminal should move to where the car park is and that the place should be expanded for more aircraft.

Also, an aviation analyst and Publicity Secretary of Aviation Round Table, Olumide Ohunayo, said, “I do not support the demolition of those buildings. I feel there is the need to look at the reasons those buildings were put in place. Some of those buildings are there to provide critical residents and backup for operations and emergency services at the airport. And if you look at the assets there, they can be converted to some other commercial uses rather than demolishing them.

“We already have 12,000 acres given to the airport authority in Abuja. Why don’t they start the aerotopolis there? Let’s see how it goes before coming down to Lagos which is already built up. I feel it is not a proper decision, and I am sure the unions would strongly resist the demolition of all these structures.”

He noted that an international airport had been demolished for the expansion of the airport apron, saying that place was not located where it was not supposed to be

He argued that it was wrong planning that has put us in a dilemma and the terminal is under-utilised.

“We cannot continue to go on concurrently with error. We need to take a break and allow some commercial things; we need to allow other perspectives needed in the industry to take their course. In addition to that, there is an airport master plan, and you don’t suddenly distort it as that will later backfire. We have seen in the case of the terminals that were built with no space and apron poorly located. These are things that come back to haunt us. Demolishing to correct the position of buildings and other things is not the ideal thing. We need to follow the master plan. In Lagos, we still need those quarters for the operational staff of the agencies and so on. They’re meant for critical airport operations,” he concluded.

Article first published on the Punch Website

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