Stakeholders okay airport concession plan
The Senate yesterday threw its weight behind the Federal Government’s plan to concession the 26 airports nationwide.The Senate, with operators and key stakeholders in the aviation sector, were unanimous that concessioning would ensure efficient running and profitability of the airports especially at a time government has no resources to revamp the critical infrastructure.
Among those who spoke at Aviation Stakeholders’ Conference in Lagos yesterday were Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Ben Murray Bruce; Former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Engr. Harold Demuren; Former Director General of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Engr. Sanni Baba; Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Nogie Meggison; Aviation Consultant, Capt. Dele Ore; Prof. Pat Utomi and Chief Executive Officer of CheckinNigeria, Michael Chikeka among others.
It would be recalled that the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, recently disclosed plans to concession the international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, which will be followed by the remaining 22 airports scattered across the country. Various unions of aviation workers have, however, kicked against the plan based on the argument that thousands of workers will be out of employment if concession pulls through.
Chairman Senate Committee on Privatisation, Bruce, said the government’s interest in Nigeria’s air travel industry is most valid at a time the sector lacks most requisite infrastructure and almost at the verge of collapse.
He said while the sector is in dearth of needed managerial ability to make it profitable, government also doesn’t have the resources to transform the airports into a world class facilities befitting of the country.
Bruce noted that Nigeria has a lot to gain from privatisation of its airports, citing success stories both in passengers and revenues of British Airport Authority and Heathrow airport since they were privatised some years ago.
According to him, “All the nations with thriving aviation industry and most successful airports are those that have privatised their aviation industry and the airports. Conversely, all the nations that have a troubled aviation industry and the worst airports in the world are nations that have not privatised their aviation industry and their airports.”
“I have a list of the worst airports in the world and they are in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Nepal and Nigeria. The best airports in the world: Quata, Japan, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Hong Kong, North Korea and Singapore.
“Fact is that the government does not have the managerial operating capacity to manage airport this day and age. The bureaucracy of the civil service is not conducive to the automation expected of an airport environment under the best of circumstances. The fact is that Nigeria needs to hands off airport and privatise them, or at the very least, concession them out to private sector managers with the experience and know-how to run these facilities in a business-like manner,” he said.
The Senator assured the gathering that his committee was ready to ensure the laws required to fast-track the privatisation of the airports, coupled with ensuring that the “privatisation laws have irrevocable and irreversible clause, such that no new government will just come in and reverse what previous government did.”
“It is my proposal that after every privatisation, there should be a two-year contestability period, during which anyone that has any reason why the privatisation should be executed is allowed to contest the exercise with facts and documents evidence.
“Once that window of time has passed, everyone including the government, becomes bound from contesting any aspect of the privatisation exercise. We cannot make progress if our privatisation exercise is in jeopardy every time there is a change of government. We need to give local and international investors confidence in our system,” he said.
Demuren noted that Nigerians are debating on airport concession or not simply because the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) among others have failed in their responsibility.
He, however, insisted that the transport ministry must come out clear on exactly what they are privatising, be it the terminal, runway, security apparatus, non-navigational facilities and so on.
Chairman of the AON, Meggison, also added that with concessioning of the airports, if transparent and given to the right investors, it will attract managerial efficiency, profitability, job creation and better navigational and non-navigational facilities for the industry.