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Airport Concession: Unions to Embark on Nationwide Public Protest

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Unions in the Aviation Industry under the aegis of national Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) have reiterated their stand against the planned concession of the Nation’s airports insisting that the model is wrong and therefore ready to embark on another nation-wide protest to stop the process.

The unions made this declaration in a Press Statement jointly signed by Comrade Ocheme Aba, Comrade Frances Akinjole and Comrade Abdul Razak Saudi, General Secretary,                                                  Deputy General Secretary and Secretary General of NUATE, ATSSSAN and ANAP respectively.

While also emphasising that the Minister of Aviation, Capt. Hadi Sirika, is single-handedly driving this process, the unions described the proposed airport concession as a clandestine

Private Public Partnership (PPP) saying they shall remain unwavering in their stated commitment to ensure that the project does not succeed.

It could be recalled that the unions had in a Press Conference on June 30 stated their grievances against the concession project explaining that the Minister along with the ICRC  were exhibiting self interest in the project, adding that the Minister contrary to plan eventually did not involve the necessary parties in its final decision making on the project.

Sirika however, denied this in a rejoinder mid last month, refuting among other allegations that “it is entirely false and malicious to claim that the Ministry has in any way single-handedly driven this process.”

The unions also contested the Minister’s made believe that the ‘concession programme has the most noble of goals.’

They equally frowned at the fact the rejoinder did not address the challenge of demise that would face the remaining 18 airports that depend on the major four airports about to be concessioned neither did it look into the alternative concession models and other approaches canvassed in the unions Press Conference, instead, it gave the false impression that the unions were totally objecting the concession of airports.

The statement read: “Earnestly speaking, it is an understatement to state that the Minister has single-handedly driven the entire airports PPP processes thus far. Any effort to contradict this solid fact flies in the face of overwhelming evidence of the over-arching actions of the Minister on this matter. Please permit us to point out but a few: The Hon. Minister, with naked power, completely hijacked the airports concession project from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and prevented the ownership of the process by FAAN in disregard to procedure established by the ICRC, the FAAN Act and the Civil Aviation Act. In this regard, take note that it is the Minister, instead of FAAN that set up the Project Delivery Team (PDT). It is under the Minister’s auspices, instead of FAAN, that all the documents for the processes were produced. It is the Minister, instead of FAAN, that received the ICRC Certificate of Compliance. Clearly, the Minister, instead of FAAN, is driving the concession exercise.

“Whereas the Hon. Minister has always showcased his pride in including two union representatives in the PDT, and constantly states that this was to serve the purpose of assuring transparency and accountability, his actions have advertently eroded the advertised transparent disposition. First, the clandestine approach to the PPP process has rendered the PDT redundant, and the participation of our Unions in tow. Second, his expressly stated disdain and low esteem for the PDT as contained in his rejoinder clearly shows that he does not reckon with the PDT. Therefore, his oft-stated value attached to the unions participation in the concession process through our membership of the PDT is a charade, an instrument to blackmail labour, and a calculated effort to mislead government and the public.

“That the ‘concession programme has the most noble of goals.’ We are absolutely convinced that the preponderance of infractions/violations, short-circuiting/circumventions, and gross abuses of the PPP processes have denied the proposed airports concession of any nobility. Any non-chauvinistic and honest assessment of the airports concession programme so far cannot but confirm our earlier held view that this concession is a crime against the Nigerian State and its people, and that it should be discontinued forthwith.

“Besides, the Hon. Minister’s rejoinder under reference deliberately failed to respond to other very important issues raised in our Press Conference. For example, the concession programme has nothing in it to cater for the demise that faces the remaining 18 airports when the life support that the four airports represent is switched off by the blood sucking concession programme. The rejoinder did not address that.

“The rejoinder did not speak to the alternative concession models and other approaches canvassed in our press conference. Instead, the rejoinder gave the false impression that our unions are totally objectionable to concession of airports. This is not true at all.

“Equally important is the loud silence over the issue of primacy of national security, especially at this time and the foreseeable future. The rejoinder failed to situate, within the national security architecture, the potential fact of the four foremost international gateways being held in private (most likely foreign) hands.”

The statement further stated that there remains no clarity on the question of the semi-concession that already exists through the Chinese loan facility being utilised for ongoing new terminal buildings at the same four airports, including remodelling of the old terminals.

Based on the foregoing, the statement declared that it was obvious that the rejoinder in question did not help the Minister’s cause in justifying the airport’s concession project as presently conceived which we consider potentially damaging to national interest. “To the contrary, the rejoinder further consolidated widely held view that this particular PPP does not serve any national cause, and its motive is not wholesome.

“We hasten, though, to let it be known that we are unambiguously strewn to the national cause and the genuine interest of the workers of FAAN. We are completely extricated from any narrow or selfish motives. Therefore, we shall remain unwavering in our stated commitment to deny this clandestine PPP the benefit of daylight,” it declared further.

The statement corrected any notion of being against the concession of airports as being insinuated in some quarters, saying that the lie was defeated by the fact that we did offer an alternative concession model, along with alternative approaches in its earlier press conference.

It said the nationwide public protest to be kicked off shortly was to compel a rethink in a positive direction. “There is no going back,” it said.

However, the unions said they welcome the Hon. Minister’s promise to engage with them on these issues, and will make themselves available for such engagement soon enough.

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