There is palpable tension in the nation’s aviation sector as workers in the aviation sector yesterday gave the Federal Government a 15-day ultimatum to suspend plans to concession airports nationwide.
The workers, under the aegis of Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), said failure to disband the transaction advisors within 15 days would attract industrial action that would ground activities at the airports across the country.
The unions said contrary to the anticipated gains of giving the airports to investors to manage, the move is against public interest and is bound to fail with several unresolved issues around the airports.
The Federal Government, in its bid to make the 22 airports functional and profitable, had since last year launched the plan to concession them beginning with the big four in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. The Federal Executive Council recently approved the four international airports for concession.
The General Secretary of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, said the ultimatum was the unions’ last resort to force the government and the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to stop the current effort or “fully involve them in the concession process”.
According to Abioye, “At the expiration of the 15 days ultimatum, we are going to shut down the industry. We want the minister to talk to us and share ideas with us on what they want to concession and how it will affect our members.”He added that previous concession agreements have not been beneficial as they ended in litigations against the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
A prime example is the premiere public private partnership venture in the sector, which is the Murtala Muhammed Airport two (MMA2), Lagos that was built and being operated by Bi-courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL).Abioye hinted that BASL already owes FAAN N2 billion, being debts on aviation security, management fee, fire and safety, marshalling service and electricity, among others.
“As these magnitudes of debts against BASL are yet to be settled in favour of FAAN, how then can we guarantee that the Federal Government, through our ministry will not unleash another monster on FAAN in the name of concession? Until matters such as this are resolved, aviation unions shall not rest on their oars and allow these shenanigans to continue,” Abioye said.
The National Secretary, NUP, Emeka Njoku, questioned the rationale to concession an organisation that can be self-sustaining.Njoku said: “For the avoidance of doubt, we posit for the records before the world nagging issues and questions on our concerns, predicament and expectations of what will become of FAAN, which has been able to sustain itself, albeit under very terrible conditions inflicted on it by government officials.
“What lies ahead of FAAN with members of staff totaling 6,285 in 22 airports and with their pensioners totalling N4.1 billion and still counting?”He further drew attention to about 64 concession litigations against FAAN still pending in various courts, arising from alleged fraudulent operations, faulty and irregular agreements, negation/vitiation of agreements, failure to perform according to agreements and so forth.
“How do we manage and clear all these cases, while the minister is busy planning the concessions of our airports, albeit without regard to these existing legal issues?“Actuarial valuation (liabilities) of the entire staff of FAAN stood at N120 billion as at 2015; while monthly salaries and pensions stand at almost N2 billion,” he said.