May 12, 2021

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Gray areas found in airports concession program; unions dispose to dialogue with minister

4 min read

Capt. Hadi Abubakar Sirika, Aviation Minister, First Day Of 2nd Term in Office

Aviation unions in Nigeria have challenged Capt. Hadi Abubakar Sirika, the Minister in Charge of Aviation, to a round table discussion on the beleaguered airport concession which they said is laden with inconsistencies and shrouded in secrecy as no one knows anything in the business case, if ever there is one, for each of the four airports ostensibly penciled for concession 

In a media statement titled, “There Must Be A Limit To Perfidy”, and signed by Scribes of the three strong unions, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association Of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, Comrade Frances Akinjole, Deputy Secretary General; National Union Of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, and the Association Of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, ANAP, Comrade Abdul Razaq Seidu, Secretary General, the unions also challenged the leadership of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, to tell the world the due diligence conducted before it issued Certificate Of Compliance, COC, to the Aviation Minister on the Airport concession.   

   The unions asked the Director General, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, if he ever done, or if the Federal Airports Authority Of Nigeria, FAAN, ever presented to it, any due diligence done for project identification, or prioritization, or if any concept note was specifically sent to ICRC on concession of any airport in Nigeria as required by the publicly stated ICRC procedures?   

They averred that they were ”not ignorant of the ICRC processes. As a matter of fact, our well-considered contention that the ICRC has not performed due diligence on the concession program, and that the Ministry has not acted altruistically in the matter is borne out of our knowledge that both the Ministry and the ICRC have gravely failed to comply with the established PPP due process”. 

The union leaders said, “the Hon. Minister with naked power, completely hijacked the airports concession project from FAAN and prevented the ownership of the process by FAAN in disregard to procedure established by the ICRC, the FAAN Act and the Civil Aviation Act”.

They claimed to have noted with regret, how “the Minister, instead of FAAN, set up the Project Delivery Team (PDT). It is under the Minister’s auspices, instead of FAAN, that all the documents for the processes were produced. It is the Minister, instead of FAAN, that received the ICRC certificate of Compliance. Clearly, the Minister, instead of FAAN, is driving the concession exercise”. 

Citing the act that established FAAN and the required procedure for enabling a PPP, according to ICRC regulation, the union said, “The public entity should have enabling authority to transfer its responsibility, enabling legislative and policy framework or an Administrative Order to that effect”

 The unions however noted that they found “nothing in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Act that grants power to the Ministry of Aviation “to transfer its responsibility”, nor is there any clear “legislative & policy framework” for such, nor is there an “Administrative order” in that respect. Therefore, the airports concession is being undertaken in the absence of a basic pre-requisite, and in contravention of its major policy guideline”.

They argued that, “the only role FAAN has played so far is that of a representative member on the Project Delivery Team and the Steering Committee as appointed by the Minister. Therefore, the ICRC and the Ministry, by carrying on with the airports concession project outside the purview of FAAN is indicative of an unwholesome agenda”

NATIONAL SECURITY

The union also raised the issue of security saying, “equally important is the loud silence over the issue of primacy of national security, especially at this time and the foreseeable future”

They queried how the security arrangement of the concessionaire will key into the national security architecture, taking into consideration the potential fact of the four foremost international gateways being held in private (most likely foreign) hands.

Furthermore, they raised issue on the status of the new airports being constructed with Chinese loans in those international airports penciled for concession. They also asked for clarification on the question of the semi-concession that already exists through the Chinese loan facility being utilized for ongoing new terminal buildings at the same four airports, including remodelling of the old terminals.

The unions declared, “we hereby publicly dissociate ourselves from any notion of being against the concession of airports as being insinuated in some quarters. This lie is defeated by the fact that we did offer an alternative concession model, along with alternative approach in our earlier press conference”

They vowed to “stand firm against any attempt to share our common patrimony in the guise of a phony concession exercise. And we enjoin all Nigerians who love the fatherland to join us as we prepare for nationwide public protests to be kicked off shortly in order to compel a rethink in a positive direction” the statement said.

The unions however declared that, they are available for engagement should the Minister found their views genuinely erroneous and were only mistaking his overzealousness for ill motive, then this statement represents a valuable chance for the Minister to step back a bit and take another look at his approach thus far.

The statement concluded with a note of optimism that should the Minister also meant well and his intention being misconstrued “his intended engagement with our unions may prove auspicious and useful indeed”.

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