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Again, aviation workers fault concession, planned demolition of FAAN, NAMA offices

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja Bureau Chief) and Wole Oyebade (Lagos)
11 November 2022   |   4:17 am
Aviation workers’ unions, yesterday, reiterated their displeasure against the Federal Government’s plan to concession four major international airports, coupled with a new agenda to demolish aviation agencies’ offices in Lagos.

Nigeria Air to take off with $350m investment, says minister

Aviation workers’ unions, yesterday, reiterated their displeasure against the Federal Government’s plan to concession four major international airports, coupled with a new agenda to demolish aviation agencies’ offices in Lagos.

The workers, under the aegis of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), said details of the concession plan have proved it is self-serving and anti-Nigeria.

The coalition, at a peaceful rally in Lagos, called on the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to suspend the aviation roadmap plan and conduct forensic investigation of actions so far taken by Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika.

The government recently announced preferred and reserved bidders for the concession of Lagos, Abuja and Kano airports.

For Lagos, Sirika also disclosed that the former headquarters of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) offices would be demolished to pave way for a proposed airport city.

The unions said, although the development of the roadmap is not new to the current administration, the recent desperation of the minister and emerging details of the concession plan are unsettling.

The unions, in a joint statement shortly after their rally, observed that, since the concessionaire would not be making new investment in terminal infrastructure, there is no justification for a profit sharing ratio of 60:40 in favour of the concessionaire.

Secretary General of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, noted that the flaws are enormous and unacceptable.

Aba said past efforts to engage the minister and other handlers on the grey issues have proven abortive, as the minister has only intensified actions to implement the “obnoxious” agenda.

Consequently, the unions called on FEC to halt further approvals on the concession programme, and indeed any other aviation road map project, pending a comprehensive forensic audit of the projects undertaken.

The unions said: “It is our firm belief that such an audit will expose the activities, so far, as waste of public funds, and tilted away from national good. This is the least the Council can do to redeem itself, in the face of accusation that FEC has, so far, been railroaded into giving consent to bad deals for the country.

“We call on all patriotic Nigerians to join aviation workers and labour unions to, once and for all, battle to tell our elected leaders that our national assets do not belong to the few opportune individuals in government and their cronies, for them to share and plunder, nor do they have powers to act as they please over national interests without our consent.”

MEANWHILE, Sirika, yesterday, announced that national carrier, Nigeria Air, will take off with three major investors and $350 million investment.

Speaking during a media briefing on achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, tagged: ‘PMB Administration (2015-2023) Scorecard’, Sirika disclosed that Ethiopian Airline has 49 per cent stake, the Nigerian government has five per cent, while Nigerian private investors have 41 per cent.

When asked the rationale behind ceding 49 per cent stake in the country’s national carrier to a competitor, the minister explained: “I am not making a case for Ethiopian Airline. It is an African airline, to start with. It has existed for 70 years. They fought wars but the airline was saved. It is the only airline that made profit even during COVID-19. The airline, as at today, in this very harsh environment, has declared $1 billion profit this year.

“The airline is a member of Star Alliance, and because they are Africans does not mean they are not good. Our thinkers have said that we must come together to take charge of our own market. About 90 per cent of the airlines doing business in Africa are not Africans. Why? The future and fortunes of Africa must be for Africans. So, we must open up Africa. Which country started this? It was Nigeria.

“We started it with Nigeria Airways. In the context, and in the spirit of the Single African Air Transport Market, and the African Agenda 2063, it is important that we look inwards and partner with those that are good and better, much better than most of the airlines in the world.”

On why local airlines were not considered, he said the reason for partnering Ethiopian Airline was not because of the good things they have but because “we want a transparent process.

He said: “Personally, I went to Qatar, Lufthansa, British Airways, all of them, and invited them to come. I went for a road show in London, in the U.S. and every single event, to sell the idea of our roadmap, including the airline, and there was significant interest from over 100 entities.

“At a time, I told the local airlines that we are ceding off this airline. I don’t care how it is done but it must be done in the correct sense and we are inviting you to come and invest.”

“I told them we could do it together. But the way you are going about it, it cannot work. We need quantum of money, knowledge, skills and the know-how to do it. Come and partner with us.

“In the process of request for proposals, we advertised in all the national newspapers and The Economist. We had six conferences. But what happened? On the day of the deadline, some airlines asked for extension and we agreed because the request was popular.

“On the day of closure, some came late. Ethiopian Airline was the only airline that made it, and it was closed at 11:00 p.m. There were pleas for extension of the deadline, which was not granted.

“The business was well publicised. We said government has no business in business. We saw it in Nigeria Airways. It went down simply because of government interference, lackluster attitude.

“So, Nigerian government got five per cent, which is for all of us, Nigerians, because government has no business in business. Second, 46 per cent of the airline (Nigeria Air) will be taken by Nigerian investors; Nigerians who are interested in the airline.

“Together, you have 51 per cent; that is on purpose and deliberate, so that we have controlling shares, and even the five per cent of government can be sold later once we are on the ground.

“The equity fund and investor will invest 49 per cent. It is ET Consortium. Now, ET Consortium and other investors will come and invest, and the total, for now, is $350 million to start off the airline.”