A former Director of Engineering Services with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Engineer Mohammed Sadiq (FNSE), said the nation’s airports are capable of operating without capital from government while contributing to government coffers.
According to him, FAAN generates N33billion annually and can contribute 25% of this to the Federal government and also stated that the on-going construction of new terminal buildings in the international airports can easily be paid for by FAAN since it is at a very low interest rate of 2% and payable over 22 years.
Sadiq said,” it is this economic viability of our airport system that the economic terrorists are targeting by advocating privatisation of the only viable international airports to the detriment of the overall development of the other airports and by extension the development of the country.”
Comparing with data from the US, Sadiq noted that the busiest airport in the world, Hartfield-Jackson international airport in the Atlanta Georgia had an annual turnover of $$24b. This is equivalent to about N7.2trillion; that is more than the N6trillion Naira budget of Nigeria,”he posited.
On the advantages of Government ownership and management of airports, Sadiq listed safety and security of the entire nation, infrastructural development, national development, financial contribution to the Treasury Single Account (TSA), loss of experienced personnel, and amazement at the level of greed and principle of greatest good for the greatest number of people.
On safety and security he said, “All airports are considered as boarders of the host country. So they are security posts. The entire security of the nation can be compromised if the Airports are in private hands. Setting up a Government security apparatus to oversee the security cannot solve the problems because the Private Airport Operator can create avenues to circumvent security in the transportation of arms and ammunitions, drugs, fake currency and other dangerous goods. The Government will then need the cooperation of the Operator of the Airport to securely manage the whole airport infra-structure.”
“But with the present Government ownership and FAAN management of airports such nefarious activities cannot be entertained. This is one of the reasons why FAAN should be strengthened to run the Airports in a profitable manner and then pay a large percentage of their earnings to the Federal Government through the TSA.
Explaining how government ownership can boost infrastructural development, Saiq said the Private Operators of Airports are only interested in milking the system and leaving it dry and fallow at the end of the day.
“These so-called private operators only concentrate their attention on the Terminal Buildings. They don’t contribute to the maintenance of the Airports’ most critical safety infrastructures namely the Runway, Taxiway, Apron, navigational aids, Airport Ground Lighting system, Fire and Safety Service, Airport Perimeter fencing and the general maintenance of the airside.”
“FAAN has been in the business of Airport Management and Operation since 1976 initially as NAA (Nigerian Airports Authority). FAAN has therefore gathered valuable experience over the past 40 years that no other group or organization in Nigeria can match. Areas of weakness that have been identified such as overstaffing, top heaviness of the organization etc are externally imposed and can be corrected to improve the efficiency of the organization.”
On national development he said FAAN has been operating the Nigeria’s single Airport System by cross-subsidizing the smaller airports that cannot break even on their own from the revenue generated by the bigger airports.
“If the few (actually two) viable airports are selected and concessioned, the other unviable airports are being deliberately killed by the greed of the concession advocates. This is not in the best interest of the country because most parts of the country will be disadvantaged by such a policy. Out of the twenty Six airports, including six state-owned airports, only two airports (MMA and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports) are viable.”
“Cherry-picking the viable airports for concessioning will make the other airports neglected, unoperational and eventually become moribund. Everybody, including economic and industry leaders will then be forced to travel on bad roads to face the threat of insecurity, road accidents from drunken drivers, kidnapping, assasination and unnecessary waste of time. The single airport system as it is being practiced by FAAN is the best system that can encourage even development across the Country and provide safe air transport at this stage of our economic development.”
Presently, he noted, the total revenue accruing to FAAN goes to the Federal Government Account through the TSA. But if the viable Airports are Cherry-picked and concessioned, the whole money goes to the Concessionaire thereby depriving the Federal Government of the critically needed revenue for infrastructural development.
“MM2 was concessioned to BI-COURTENEY since 2001(16 years ago). Bi- Courtney has not paid a single kobo to FAAN since that time in the form of 5% Concession fees”, he said.
Sadiq further noted that concession is against the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number of people in our circumstance as a developing nation.
“The President was voted into power by recognition of his integrity, popularity and concern for the common man. Concessioning of productive public assets portrays the exact opposite of what Mr. President is noted for, for being people-oriented. Concession bears the indelible mark of patronage of the favored few rich men of the society as against the people-centric policy and greatest interest of the greatest number of people policy of Mr. President.”