*Emirates resumes Abuja operations
By Nkem Osuagwu
Confusion is trailing the planned concession of Lagos and Abuja Airports by the Federal Government following their recent approval by the government, even as the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has commenced discussions with the African Development Bank (AFDB) on the funding of the airport concession, national carrier project and the establishment of an Aircraft Maintenance and Repair Organisation(MRO), a project considered novel.
The Minister in a full dose of excitement, while at the meeting in Abidjan, Cote’voire, headquarters of the multilateral institution, last week, tweeted thus, “ At AfDB currently discussing funding of national carrier, concession, MRO, etc. It will work, Iam excited.”
Sirika,who equally led the delegation of International Civil Aviation Organisation(ICAO) for a meeting to the bank did not provide details of the funding request from AfDB and what the Federal Government plans to concession at the port, leaving more confusion and many questions waiting for answers. Not even his media aide, Mr. James Odaudu could provide clarifications on the model of concession as he picked his calls but pleaded to call back and never did, nor responded to further calls.
While confusion reigns in the sector with operators and aviation workers seeking information on the announced planned concession of the two nation’s major airports regarded as the cash-cows for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria(FAAN), experts are wondering why government needs loan to concession the airports.
Some of the industry watchers who spoke with MMS Plus said they were yet to understand the rationale behind the concession of the two airports which are already considered viable, adding that they lacked information on the detail of the concession arrangement, because most services at the airports, including the car parks and toll gates are already under private managements.
Also, the major cash points at the airports have been concessioned to a firm named AVTEC which is in charge of collecting the Aeronautical and non aeronautical fees on behalf of FAAN at the airports.
Founder/Executive Director, Centre for Air Safety and Research (CAS-R), Engineer Sheri Kyari, said industry stakeholders still lacked the basic facts concerning the concession of the airports.
His words, “The truth is that stakeholders are waiting for the details of the concession arrangement. No one knows for certain if it is the terminal building, navigational aids or the runways that haves been slated for the programme.”
However, Mr. Chris Aligbe, an Aviation Consultant, said that the government should consider the concession of the terminal buildings and the runways, because there are no world class terminals in the country. He called on the government to set up a team of experts, not just civil servants to drive the concession programme under the leadership of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Oshinbajo to ensure that the programme succeeds.
The Secretary General, Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Abulrasaq Saidu, said his members would fight the implementation of the programme with their blood, because they were not carried along in the decision to concession the airports even as he stressed that the other attempts at concession in the industry were never done transparently.
He said there were still some unanswered questions regarding the issue, even as he insisted that all revenue points have already undergone the process.
Also, Comrade Ocheme Aba, General Secretary, Nigerian Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) said the industry watchers are still confused because they don’t have details of the concession exercise, adding that the ministry still needs to disclose the details of the concession arrangement.
Group Captain Ojukutu, (Rtd), Chairman of Century Security, said there was no clear terms as to what the government wants to concession at the airports . He wants the government to be more specific on the areas selected for the exercise even as he warned against the concession of the airside due to security concerns.
The workers in FAAN have through their unions, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Association of Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATTSAN) threatened to stop all airline operations in Nigeria because the government did not carry them along in the process. They want the government to address all issues pertaining to staff welfare before implementing the programme.
In another development, Emirates Airline, the Dubai based airline has concluded plans to resume flight operations to the Abuja Airport.
The airline, according to the Minister of State for Aviation, who consummated the return deal in Dubai, would resume flight into the capital city on November 1, this year.
The airline stopped its service into the capital city following the difficult period faced by foreign airlines in repatriating their funds to their home countries in the wake of the economic recession in the country.
Other airlines that stopped their flights into Nigeria included Iberia Airlines and Continental Airline, based in Spain and United States of America, respectively.
Emirates Airline, however had continued with its flights to Lagos Airport, only stopping its Abuja flights.
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