Saturday, 23rd September 2023

Aviation workers berate Sirika, vow to resist demolition of Lagos offices

By Wole Oyebade
31 March 2023   |   5:10 am
Aviation workers’ unions have reiterated their earlier vow to resist the Federal Government’s plan to demolish office complexes of aviation agencies in Lagos State, to make way for a new airport city project.

Aviation minister Hadi Sirika

Allege plans to appropriate public assets for personal use

Aviation workers’ unions have reiterated their earlier vow to resist the Federal Government’s plan to demolish office complexes of aviation agencies in Lagos State, to make way for a new airport city project.

The unions, at a rally in Lagos, yesterday, said the Aerotropolis (airport city) initiative was not in public interest, just as they took a swipe at the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, for performing abysmally for over seven years in office.

The workers’ verdict, contrary to the pass mark Sirika awarded himself a week ago in Abuja, was against the 2016 aviation roadmap initiative the minister promised to deliver.

The roadmap has deliverables like a new national carrier, concession of airports for efficiency, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, aircraft leasing company,and creation of metropolis at major airports.

Beside the trio of Lagos, Abuja and Kano airports that last year got designated concessionaires, none of the other deliverables has seen light of day.

The aviation 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 and airport city project showed a “self-serving” agenda; hence, should be rejected by all.

The unions said they would continue to resist the planned demolition of the office complexes, because “aviation agencies’ offices should not be for sale.”

General Secretary of ATSSSAN, Frances Akinjole, said there was no reason for the planned demolition of the former headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in Lagos.

Akinjole said the administration had barely two months to exit, “yet demolition of aviation agencies still tops the list.” Why?”

He lamented that almost three years after the first batch of aviation workers were forcefully relocated from Lagos to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, “their relocation allowances are yet to be paid, and most of those agencies, including FAAN, still have no offices in Abuja.”

Akinjole observed that over 75 per cent of aviation activities happen in Lagos, and wondered how the agencies would operate without office complexes in the state.

“They want to demolish in public interest, but they will now be the beneficiaries of these property. But this is our common patrimony, and we will fight it out. We all know the challenges members of staff of other agencies, who were relocated to Abuja, are facing.

“For instance, workers of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) that are in Abuja do not have offices of their own, while those in NSIB were told to be working from home, here in Lagos. FAAN does not have its own office in Abuja, yet they want to push everyone to where there is no accommodation for workers,” he said.

The union leaders, however, assured that the unions would frustrate every move by some people in government to convert public property into personal assets.

NUATE member, Safiya Araga, also accused the minister of maltreating the workers, while pursuing phantom projects in the industry.

She said, ideally, there should be adequate provisions for the workers before they are relocated outside present stations.

Araga urged the incoming administration to audit activities of the minister in the past eight years, alleging that the sector had been stagnant for about 10 years.

She said: “We had gigantic policies that never came to fruition in the last eight years. The NAMA case is a terrible one. Till date, NAMA uses a rented apartment in Abuja.

“For the past eight years, we have not been encouraged by this government. What does the Labour Act say about relocation? The workers need to wake up, defend their work life and their families. We should all be on standby. A people united can never be defeated,” she said.

General Secretary of ANAP, Abdulrazaq Saidu, also described the action of the minister in the last eight years as full of “illegalities.”

Saidu said Sirika’s failure to constitute Board of Directors in various agencies contravened the Acts setting up those agencies, and the directive of the Presidency.