Aviation workers, NLC protest against planned concession of airports
Coalition of aviation workers’ unions yesterday made good their threats as they embarked on peaceful mass protest against welfare issues and plan to concession the international airports.
The main concern of the workers, under the aegis of Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), is what would be their fate when the airports fall into private hands.
The Federal Government has been planning to concession all the 22 federal airports, beginning with the big four in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, to enable them function efficiently and profitably. Despite the government’s assurance that the workers would still be relevant in the new arrangement, the unions have been against concession.
In Lagos, where the protest was most pronounced, offices of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) were as early as 7 a.m. placed under lock and key, as the workers mobilised for rally in and around the terminals.
The rally, which began at the Freedom Square of the Lagos airport, was soon extended with procession on the airport road, leading to traffic gridlock.
Among the inscriptions on the placards displayed by the protesters were: “Airports concession is a crime against Nigerians”, “Selective concessions ploy to destroy FAAN”, “FAAN workers have been patient enough”, “Job losses loom in the aviation industry”, “FAAN pay our pension liability” and “FG please resolve MM2 concession”.
After singing series of solidarity songs, the Secretary-General of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, explained that the concession would not favour the workers, instead it would further impoverished them with the anticipated job loss.
Aba reiterated the earlier stand of the coalition that the process had not been transparent, pointing accusing fingers at the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika.
Chairman of ATSSSAN, FAAN branch, Ahmed Danjuma, described the concession plan as a one-man project, initiated by Sirika and is being facilitated clandestinely contrary to the established procedure by the Infrastructure, Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, condemned the planned concession, warning the Federal Government to desist from further contemplation, discussions and arrangements to implement it.
“We call for social dialogue between government and labour on this. Organised labour and the entire Nigerian working class would resist any attempt to unilaterally concession any of our public airports thus undermine the directive principles and fundamental objectives of our national constitution, which is actually the fulcrum upon which our collective identity and aspiration rests.
“We will not give up or surrender public assets to a few well-connected Nigerians, regardless of how powerful they may think they are,” he said.
IN Kano, FAAN workers protested at the domestic terminal of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA). They also kicked against the government’s directive to return all staff that retired from April 1, 2014 to PenCom.
Chairman of ATSSSAN at the airport, Hassan Aliyu, insisted that the concession would lead to retrenchment of staff and that the future of those retired might not be assured.
Aliyu cited the concession plan of the Murtala Muhammad (MM2), Lagos and the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) that allegedly failed to yield the desired results, but crippled careers and sent retirees to early grave.
According to him, FAAN staff are satisfied with the traditional pension scheme being operated by the agency and would not succumb to any pressure to forcefully return aviation workers to PENCOM.
AVIATION workers at Ibadan Airport and pensioners also protested against the proposed concession.The protest was led by the airport’s chapter of ATSSSAN, Comrade Oyewole Olayade, his NUATE counterpart, Comrade Gbenga Kayode, and Abimbola Ibrahim, who described the proposal as evil.
They carried placards bearing various inscriptions such as ‘’Airport concession lacks transparency”, “Nigerians rise against siege on our common patrimony”, “Job loss looms in the aviation industry “, “FAAN, pay our pension liabilities “, “Our airports are undervalued “, “ Federal Government, please resolve MM2 concession”, “Airport concession a threat to aviation industry “, “Chinese loan repayment threatened by concession” and “Selective concession ploy to destroy FAAN.”
The ATSSSAN chairman said: “We say no to airport concession. Where injustice becomes law, resistance will become duty. We are here to resist this evil act. We are all living witnesses to different policies that have been done. We are living witnesses to what become of the concession of NITEL. We know what happened to NITEL today. Their workers are in great suffering now. NEPA was sold to individuals for effectiveness, but is it more effective today?”
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