August 1, 2021

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Airport concession designed to enrich few priviledged ones- NLC

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Nigeria Labour Congress led nationwide, peaceful rally against airport concession

The umbrella body of workers unions, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has picked the gauntlet against the Aviation Ministry and management of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, and vowed to use every lawful means at its disposal to ensure the much touted Private Sector Participation, PSP, program otherwise called concession, of the most successful airports in the country will not see the light of day.

At a well co-ordinated and well attended peaceful rally held nationwide today, the workers’ leadership said Organized labour and the entire Nigerian working class would resist any attempt to unilaterally concession any of the four airports namely, Murtalla Mohammed International Airport, Lagaos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt, and Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, which are the cash cow and the mainstay supplying lifeline to sustain the smaller and not very strong airports.

The workers said the proposal by all the parties involved in the concession ran afoul of Chapter 2, Section 16 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, under the Fundamental Objectives and the Directive Principles of State Policy which states that the Nigerian government must manage and operate the major sectors of the economy and ensure that our economy is not operated to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group.

They argued that the concession will be in direct opposition to the letters and the spirit of that constitutional provision above and would make the few with ill-gotten wealth to usurp the state investment on infrastructure to create inordinate wealth for themselves at the expense of the workers and the general public.

A statement issued at the end of the rally stated that, “Organized labour has identified this approach to governance as reactionary, predatory and self-serving. We reject concession of our core national assets yesterday. We are rejecting it today!”

Leaders of the workers’ union asked the government why it did not opt for concession when the airports were in decrepit condition, but after various Chinese loans had been procured to develop the airports and various special approvals were directly and personally secured from Mr. President, it was then the airports were qualified to for concession, they described as mischief.

Labour described the entire official garb being worn on the program as “a grand insult to the collective intelligence of the Nigerian public for the Federal Government to invest a lot of public funds in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our airports and then hand them over to private sector players for profit maximization and at the expense of the tax paying public. This is unjust. It is immoral. This cannot stand”, the statement said.

The union argued that, “Apart from the hemorrhage to government revenue that this concession portends, Nigerian workers are concerned over the security of their jobs. Our experience in the past had been that of massive layoff of workers once private sector players get the concession of our national assets. The reason is over – profit maximization, as very few workers are engaged in slave labour to do the work that many workers would ordinarily be required to do. Organized labour would resist this”.

The workers declared there was no “compelling reason for the Federal Government to gift away our national airports to private companies to manage. The truth is that this presents the government as being incapable of managing anything. We are sure that no responsible government would want to be seen in that light”.

Also, the “Failures of private sector intervention in our public electric power supply speaks volumes of the inherent danger in using public assets to service private interests or massage the ego of those in the corridors of power”, the statement said.

Leadership of the unions declared that, the truth remains that once public servants are properly motivated, trained, empowered, and given the enabling work environment, there is no limits to what they can achieve”.

They also noted that “once government’s undue interference in the day to day of the agencies is put in check, and allow professionals do their job especially by enforcing standards in the public procurement process, our workers are more than capable to maintain and manage our national assets. The success story of the Ethiopian Airline and the Airport hub instructs”.

The Nigeria Labour Congress warned the Federal Government to desist from further contemplation, discussions and arrangements to concession international airports and called for social dialogue between government and labour on this.

The workers warned that, “organized labour and the entire Nigerian working class would resist any attempt to unilaterally concession any of our public airports thus undermining the directive principles and fundamental objectives of our national constitution which is actually the fulcrum upon which our collective identity and aspiration rests’’.

The statement ends on a sarcastic note thus, “we will not give up or surrender public assets to a few well-connected Nigerians, regardless of how powerful they may think “

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