Airport concessions – Part 2
Continued from yesterday
The PPS later claimed that his hands were tied politically and nothing happened thereafter mainlybecause the winning concessionaire was busy worldwide telling anyone who wanted to come that Abuja was off limits. Now again, in the middle of a pandemic, when flights are few and no one can predict where aviation would fall, is this a time to concession the airport after the massive borrowing from China to build the Airports in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt? What is the hurry? Why does the government behave as if there was no pandemic? Why are
you selling the airport now when it operates at less than 20% of its capacity? Or is the purpose to sell it cheap to a favoured son? Airports are great employment centres for the people in any country. The planes fly the national flag and its success or failure is reflected in the estimation of that country. In 1985, Emirates wet leased three aircraft from Air Pakistan.
Look at the Emirates today, look at Dubai. In Africa, Kenya Airways, Rwanda Airways, Ethiopia Airways are the exception in a dismal outing of African airlines. The ministers of Aviation in Nigeria apart from gaming, the system have shown no ability to grow and protect Nigerian expertise in the system or even keep a Nigeria presence. All the catering in our airports are foreign owned; all the document security screening (except one) are foreign owned; all the aircraft handling are foreign owned; all the duty free shops are foreign owned, yet the labour is Nigerian, the profit foreign. One of my friends tried to establish a catering company in Heathrow and Gatwick, he could not.
In Gatwick, Virgin was carrying food for both the Lagos outward and inward bound flights. He tried to say he could provide food for the
Lagos Gatwick leg. He did once. Next time he was told that for health reasons the food from Nigeria was not acceptable. Nigeria`s money was acceptable but not its food!!! All the Nigerians who had duty free shops at Lagos, Abuja, and Kano have lost them.
Another friend wanted to establish a catering company at Heathrow. His was seemingly at first welcomed. He was given a space, he moved in equipment but just before opening he was told that he could not open until he produced a contract from two airlines that they would buy his food and without the contracts he could not have the Heathrow licence. Which airline would give you such a contract when you have not fully set up? Indeed, it would need to inspect your outfit before signing with you.
How much did we pay for the Chinese to build up our terminals in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt? How are we going to pay for the loan and for how long? It may be argued that the Ministry is so busy hence the need to concession? Dubai has a concession 51% owned by indigenes. Dubai started in 1985, look at what it has achieved in those few years – religion did not deter it, finance did not deter it, lack of talent, ability, experience and ambition did not deter it, and tribalism did not deter it. What is holding Nigeria back?
The flights from Nigeria to Europe and the U.S. continue to be on the high side. The normal principle is that the more you do something (fly), the cheaper it should become. If you want to save money from Nigeria to Europe, U.S., Asia – go to Cotonou, Accra and fly from there. The fares are much cheaper than from Lagos. Why? The airlines in Lagos have contributed to the death of the travel agencies by refusing or cutting drastically the commission airlines pay to travel agents.
Nigeria boasts that it wants to expand into the tourist business, how can you do that without travel agencies? The airlines maintain a different foreign exchange regime with the CBN -why? No minister has any plan to save the airline industry, to create jobs, make infrastructural foundations to make Nigerian airlines profitable. We have 200 million people for God’s sake – we should not be failing. A glance at the debtors bailed out by AMCON, over 50% are airlines or airport related businesses. Does that not signify something? You would imagine that in the case of Nigeria, the aviation ministry and its various statutory bodies would want to protect Nigerians. Well,