People & Money

Nigeria To Return to Obasanjo’s Plans to Concession Airports

The move by the Federal Government to concession the terminals of four Nigerian international airports located in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, and Port Harcourt is sure to cause labour restiveness in the sector.”

The Nigerian government Monday said the planned airport concessions across the country and the proposed establishment of a national carrier would be implemented despite opposition from some quarters.

Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika made the disclosure in his address during the 2020 International Civil Aviation Day ceremony in spite of lawmakers’ opposition to the airport concession plan pursued by the Nigerian government.

The House of Representatives had in November told the Nigerian government to shelve the airport concession plan, which would involve four international airports in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, and Abuja.

Labour groups including the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have also variously expressed their disapproval of the move. NLC President Ayuba Wabba in September said that organised labour condemned the plans.

“Our experience in the past had been that of a massive layoff of workers once private sector players get the concession on national assets,” he said. “We rejected the concession of our core national assets yesterday. We are rejecting it today!’’

Nnolim Nnaji, chair of the House Committee on Aviation, had noted that there were concerns on the part of aviation operators regarding the proposed airport concessions.

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“Among the concerns were the lack of transparency in the exercise, labour issues, the Chinese loans, the legal issues that may arise from the existing concessions and the lack of proper valuation of the present status of the affected airports, among others,” Nnaji said.

Meanwhile, Sirika, in a statement issued by the spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, in Abuja on Monday said the airport concession was a component of the aviation roadmap currently being pursued.

The minister stated that the roadmap was devised as a catalyst for a large-scale overhaul of the country’s aviation sector.

“The minister further asserts that the roadmap which includes the establishment of a national carrier, establishment of a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility, concession of some airports, the establishment of an aviation leasing company, among others, will lay a solid and lasting foundation for aviation development in Nigeria,” the statement said.

Nigeria had experimented with the idea of privatisation with the concession of Terminal Two of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja to Bicourtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo more than a decade ago.

The policy was however reversed by his successors. Under President Goodluck Jonathan with Stella Oduah as Minister of Aviation, the government embarked on elaborate investment in the remodeling of 22 airports across the country. 

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In 2012, Nigeria approved N106 billion for the construction of 11 new international airport terminal buildings as part of a master plan championed by Oduah, which unsurprisingly did not have a substantial impact on the infrastructure in spite of the huge outlay.

Considering the airport concession under Obasanjo has remained a subject of controversy and litigation, industry experts have called on the current administration to ensure there is a legal framework and due process in the new attempt while addressing the lingering issues emanating from the past exercise.

Sirika has enjoined industry stakeholders to collaborate with the government in order to achieve the objectives of the roadmap for the benefit of all users of Nigeria’s airspace.

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