Just recently, the Federal Government through the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N10bn for automation of five international airports in Nigeria; Lagos, Enugu, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.
However, stakeholders in the Industry have shown displeasure over this move saying it was not necessary since these airports apart from Enugu International Airport have been penciled down for concession.
FEC had on March on March 30 approved the contract of for provision of Airport Management Solutions for Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu International airports.
“If the Ministry of Aviation wants to concession the airports/terminals, is it necessary again for the same Ministry to expend such a humongous amount of money on its automation?
What will the concessionaire then do? Or has the Ministry jettisoned the idea of concession for the five airports?” stakeholders had asked.
The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, said the contract was awarded to Arlington Security Nigeria Limited with the timeline of 12 months.
He also said the system would facilitate common use of terminal equipment required for sharing airport resources in accordance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Recommendation 1997.
“This allows flexible sharing of resources for check-in and boarding, such as servers, work stations, associated peripherals between airlines and handling agencies present at the airport,” he said.
According to him, the system would also provide for baggage drop, which makes it faster and quicker for passenger processing.
The Minister said the system would also provide for E-gates that would be electronically operated.
He explained that it is new and had not been part of the system provided in Lagos and Abuja before now.
As laudable as it sounds, eyebrows had been raised on why the government should bear the cost of automation which the concessionaire is expected to handle after the concession of the terminals.
Assistant Secretary, Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, commenting on the development said the money approved had to do with airport operating system; the departure gates, cameras and other system.
“What were approved for were equipment to be used at terminal buildings for the five major airports,” he confirmed..
However, he pointed out that these are the terminal buildings and airports that are already slated for concession.
“So, you now begin to wonder why the government is spending money for someone else to come in and take such terminals,” Ohunayo said.
“Also, at what point did the government decide on this? We never saw any advert, bidding for it and suddenly, a price came out from nowhere and it was approved.
“The same Federal Executive Council that said they were stopping the national carrier has gone ahead to approve over N20 billion for the same project from palliatives.
“You are giving N5 billion to those who are living and gave N22 billion to a child that has not been born,” he further pointed out.
He posited that there had been an anomaly in the approval and disbursement of funds in the Industry lately.
His words: “So, there is something wrong in the disposition of cash in the industry of late and the approval from the FEC. Invariably, with this approval, it is assumed concession of the airports is done and dusted for it not to be raised again forever.
“For me, I am happy to see the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) take over the airports back from the concession, but there is need to make FAAN commercially-oriented, profitable and be investors in other airports outside Nigeria.
“Now that we are once again investing in our airports, we can as well look at a management company that will take over the management of FAAN for a period of eight to 10 years to restructure FAAN for profitability as a full airport company.
“It remains government ownership during that period. The idea is just to restructure, be ready to pay people off, train staff and be ready to pay those who are available well and prepare the airports for profitability and for the benefit of the passengers and the Country in general.”
On his part, President of ART, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, noted that Private sector participation in aviation safe for airlines with this administration remains cloudy.
He said: “National carrier rebirth itself remains a contradiction. In six years, Arik, Aero, national carrier remain a mirage.
“Policy statement on concession of airports to evolve total private sector participation is not here in six years when Ghana Airport Transformation took barely two years.
“One would have expected the Infrastructure Concessioning and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to concession the airports after resolving the many bugging issues already identified by Industry experts, workers unions and the general public and utilise this funds on more pressing issues in the sector. Pardon my ignorance.
“Lack of public bidding for the contract; I presume bidding process must have been concluded by ICRC under whose purview the activity lies for concession to be on course.”
Also speaking, Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), pointed out that the government and FAAN should come to an agreeement with the security agencies at the airport on the automation, adding that the input of the National Security Council was necessary.
“First, what has our government and FAAN agreed together as ‘Airport Management Solutions’ for our airports security without the agreements of the government security agencies working at our airports?
“We need to find out the requirements and the demands of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in Annex 17 from member States.
“We need to be careful in awarding the contract to anyone without ensuring the national security, which the aviation security as an element of; the input of the national security council is very necessary,” he urged.