FG’s Concession Of Airports A Nullity –Aviation Unions

ABUJA – The aviation unions comprises of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) FAAN branch have rejected the concession of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.

The union said the concessioning programme failed to, first of all resolve labour and legal issues, and therefore will not see the light of the day.

The Federal Ministry of Aviation (and Aerospace) had announced that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja and the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano have been ‘successfully’ concessioned to Corporation American Airports Consortium.

The Ministry said this was the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of 17th May, 2023 which ‘approved’ the concession.

But addressing a press conference on the purported concession in Abuja yesterday, the unions said that the action of the Federal Government in that regard was an exercise in abnormality and absurdity, albeit in futility.

The General Secretary of NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba who read the text of the press conference said “anyone or entity that may proceed to commit any form of resources to such endeavor is engaging in sheer wastefulness, as the claimed approval of the FEC, if such really exists, is a non-starter”.

He said the unions believed that members of the Federal Executive Council were overcome by the spirit of Camaraderie as institutionalized in the present posture of the outgoing government for last minute bonanza for its principal officers, and so failed to scrutinize the request brought before it by the Hon. Minister of Aviation.

According to him, “If the Council did it would have availed itself of publicly available information and materials which our unions have persistently put before members of the Council and the Public about the many legally, economically and socially untenable aspects of the airports concession program of the Ministry of Aviation, and which are inimical to both orderly development of Nigerian airports and Nigeria’s social economic interest.
“For the purpose of understanding, we are compelled, for the umpteenth time, to highlight the main issues in contention pertaining to the purported airports concession”..
He stated that the concession was on faulty Foundation, noting that the Ministry of Aviation which carried out the concession has no authority to do so.
“To begin with, the Federal Ministry of Aviation (and Aerospace) does not own, or run, any airport in Nigeria. By the dictates of the governing Act of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), ownership and management of all Federal Government airports are fully vested in the Authority; not the Ministry.
“On the other hand, the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) procedure document states, with respect to the agency that wishes to concession a facility that, “The public entity should have enabling authority to transfer its responsibility – enabling legislative and policy framework OR an Administrative Order to that effect”.

“By the combined import of the FAAN Act and the ICRC procedures manual, it is evidently manifest that the entire airports concession is based on an incurably faulty foundation. For, there is no doubt that it is the Federal airports Authority of Nigeria, not the Ministry of Aviation, that has power “to transfer its responsibility” to a would be concessionaire.

“It is also FAAN, not the Ministry, which has the requisite “legislative & policy framework” for such. And, there exists no “Administrative order” which grants authority to the Ministry to usurp the powers of FAAN in the particular respect.

“As a matter of fact, for a PPP project by an agency, the only role prescribed for a Minister by the ICRC is that the Agency “would submit the FBC (Full Business Case) through the line Minister for approval”, he said.

He maintained that, if the claim that the FEC has approved the concession of NAIA and MAKIA has any substance, then the FEC has indeed been misguided in its decision, and that action cannot amount to anything than a nullity.

Aba further said labour issues around the concession of airports were far from being resolved.

The three issues he said, were that: as FAAN workers are not airports-tied in their employments, all employees are considered as a whole unit, noting that the concession of the four most major airports away from FAAN would necessarily cause a cessation of the employment of all the staff involuntarily.

He said the Unions stand ready to negotiate redundancy benefits for all staff and pensioners of FAAN.

“As FAAN pension liability is unfunded, the federal Government’s promise to provide this funding has to be actualized immediately. The pension liability is estimated to be about N120B.

“Before redundancy can be discussed, individual liabilities of staff and pensioners have to be determined through up-to-date actuarial valuation for 2022.

“All efforts on our part to discuss and resolve these issues have so far fallen on barren soil.

However, resolution of labour issues is a line charge in the development of a Full Business Case (FBC) for any concession.

But, for this FBC, labour issues have not been taken into account.

“So, how could the FBC have been concluded? Or, more importantly, how could the concession have proceeded without an FBC? Should we not, therefore, suspect that the concession that was purportedly approved by the FEC was secured with a fraudulently procured FBC?

“Based on the above-unanswered questions, the announcement of the concession without resolution of labour issues, or with a faulty or fraudulent FBC makes the concession itself a fraud which cannot stand.

“The entirety of the airport’s concession program of the Ministry of Aviation is presently a subject of legal action by our unions at the National Industrial Court, Lagos Jurisdiction. Both the Ministry of Aviation and FAAN are defendants in the case and have been duly served the summons.

“Therefore, by continuing with the concession exercise despite having been served with court action, the Minister of Aviation is in contempt of the Court. And such concession exercises are bound to be nullified by the Court.

“This purported concession of two airports will easily win the award for the most secretive government exercise ever.

From the selection of the Transaction Adviser, through the pre-qualification and selection of bidders/winners, to the development of the Full Business Case and conclusion of the concession, only the Minister, his henchmen in the Ministry and the ICRC and the favoured bidder, apart from the wind and walls, have any inkling of the concession process, whereas the whole exercise, by regulation, ought to be carried out transparently within the public view.

“For example, only the Minister and his men know the contents of the bids. So, no one else knows why one bid succeeded and another failed, or even the criteria used. Also, no one else knows what the full Business case contains, or the parameters utilized in deciding the sharing of responsibilities and accruable incomes.

“On the basis of this opacity alone, this concession exercise did not deserve a hearing from the FEC, let alone granting it such a grandiose approval. And this disservice to the nation paints the hallowed chambers of the FEC in hollow art. This is rather unfortunate.

“As some of you may know, all the aviation agencies, including FAAN, have operated without Governing Board of Directors for the past eight years. In the places of the Boards, the Minister of Aviation constituted illegal ‘Interim Boards’ of which the Minister himself is the Chairman, the Permanent Secretary is the secretary to the Board and the Chief Executive of Agency is a member.

“This means that the Honourable Minister has been the Chairman of the Board of all six Agencies in Ministry, and at the same time the supervising Minister over himself for the past eight years.

“This anomaly is the basis for all the one-man show that has made it impossible for the aviation industry to grow beyond the mental acumen of a single individual. The same reason that the airport concession programme remains stunted by the limitations and dictates of a single individual.

“This is most unfair to Nigeria and Nigerians considering the abundance of eggheads/experts among Nigerians in many aviation fields, not excluding airport concession, but who have been disabled by lack of consultation”, he noted.

He further stated that the unions have consistently and persistently called attention to what he described as the many unwholesome aspects of the airports concession program of the Ministry of Aviation and asked for retuning of the process to make it beneficial to Nigeria and its people, including the workers and pensioners of FAAN.

Aba said the unions were convinced that the inputs can only assure a more robust concession process that can guarantee better outcomes for FAAN and its workers.

To him, “the present one man show has only shortchanged our collective aspirations and vision for the future of our airports and the aviation industry.

“Our effort to bring this situation to the public domain is to enable public outcry to compel the government into positive action to save the concession program, and to alert the incoming government to the booby-traps being enacted for its downfall by the outgoing government”.

He stated that the commitment to ensuring that the stated concession exercise does not see the light of day is total and unwavering.

According to him, the present exercise falls far short of legal and acceptable limits and standards of airports concession by global best practices.

He said the unions stand against it mightily and courageously in the interest of fatherland and the workers.

Aba warned that the unions shall not allow any illegal concessionaire near any airport facility in Nigeria, and any effort to use force against them will be met with equal and opposite reaction.

“Any concessionaire would have known that it has willingly purchased a lemon and cannot complain about unfair practice as we have persistently and loudly shouted buyers beware over and over in the past on the issue of airports concessions.

“All such concessionaires know the global standards, particular as regards settlement of labour issues before any concession. If they had been given the impression that Nigeria’s case can be different, then this serves as wake-up call to them to awake from their dreams of delusion.

“There can be no concession of Nigerian airports until there is resort to legality and normality”, he stated..

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