By Chukwuemeke Iwelunmo
The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation led by Nnolim Nnaji has stepped into the brewing labour crisis over the planned concession of four international airports across the country by the Federal Government.
At a meeting with representatives of the unions at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, the committee assured the workers that the concerns they hold against the concession would be critically examined and ensured that Nigerians are not in any way shortchanged.
The unions comprising of National Union of Air transport Employees, (NUATE), Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (ATSSAN) and Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, (ANAP) had told the committee that the two main reasons given by the Ministry for concessioning the four major airports in the country were not tenable.
The affected airports are the Murtala Mohammed Airport,(MMA) Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport (NAIA), Abuja, Aminu KANU International Airport, (AMKIA) KANU and port Harcourt International Airport.
According to the spokesman of the unions, Ocheme Aba, the Ministry said that it was putting the airports for the concession to bring them to global standards since the Federal Government didn’t have the funds to do so.
Aba also stated that the Ministry gave a second reason for the concession as the lack of adequate manpower within the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) to manage the airports to the desired standards.
The unions described the whole exercise as lacking in sincerity and transparency stressing that even though the Ministry asked them to nominate members into the project committee, their nominees were never carried along.
Citing the unending litigation that has bedevilled the MM2 terminal at the local wing of the Murtala Mohammad Airport, Lagos, Aba pointed out that if the Ministry goes ahead to concession the airports the way it is going about the programme there will be severe consequences.
He also cited undervaluation of the existing assets and the contravention of the existing Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) Act as the aspects the unions expect the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation to examine.
Aba maintained that no provision in the FAAN Act grants the Ministry the powers to transfer the responsibility of managing any airport to any other entity adding that,” what we have found out in the said concession arrangement is that the authority has no input in the matter rather it is the Ministry that is solely driving the whole process”.
The unions also stated that they were equally concerned that over $500m Chinese EXIM Bank loan used to remodel the four airports’ terminals was not being factored into the concession arrangements.
Nnaji, while urging the unions to articulate their views in writing and submit the same to the committee, reassured them that as representatives of the people, the committee will protect the interest of the generality of Nigerians.