Aviation unions have said the Federal Government would not succeed in its plan to concession Nigeria’s four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.
However, it was also learnt that the move to concession the facilities had created a division among airport workers, as those in private aviation companies were in support of concession, while their counterparts in the public service opposed the plan.
On Tuesday, The PUNCH reported that the Federal Government had officially commenced the search for concessionaires to manage Nigeria’s four major airports.
It made this public through the Federal Ministry of Aviation in its requests for prequalification for the concession of four international airport terminals and related services.
Reacting to this, the Secretary-General, National Union of Air Transport Employees, Ocheme Abba, said the move would not succeed as there were so much legal tussle and other baggage around the operations of the four airports.
He told our correspondent that prospective bidders were not aware of these concerns, stressing that the union and its partner associations in the sector would make this public soon.
Abba said, “The concession exercise is carrying too much baggage and they (government) cannot succeed. It will not work because of the too much baggage. However, our views will be documented and unveiled by next week Tuesday.
“There are a lot of liabilities and labour issues that have not been addressed at all. There are economic issues surrounding the airports themselves, including many concessions that are already on and are legally binding.
“There are many legal unresolved issues. So the baggage is too much and I think this information has not been communicated to interested bidders. So, we intend to issue a caveat emptor shortly.”
When asked to speak on some of the labour and economic issues that should be resolved before the concession would succeed, Abba noted that the valuation of workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria was not captured in the business case for the concession of the airports.
He said, “There is a N120bn actuarial valuation for the over 12,000 workers of FAAN that has not been captured by the Outline Business Case. This is not in the public domain and bidders are not aware of it.
“On economic issues, most businesses of FAAN are currently under multiple concessions that are already ongoing and are legally binding at these very airports.
“There are over 50 legal cases on various aspects of operations of the airports that are currently in court. So these are just a few reasons why the plan to concession the airports won’t work.”
But the National President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Illitrus Ahmadu, told our correspondent that the development had divided public and private aviation sector workers.
He said, “I’m not supposed to speak to you on this issue because in my union, we are divided over the issue. My union has affiliation with workers in the private and the public sectors.
“So while my members in the private sector such as airlines are pro-concession because they want better services and quick turnaround time at airports, the employees in FAAN say they don’t want it.”
Ahmadu, however, noted that the fact of the matter was that the issue had to do with the policy of the Federal Government.
He said, “It is the policy of government. Recall that in this country, under the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) administration, they adopted PPP (public private partnership), whatever model.
“In some of the models, the government sold or privatised public assets. But I think there is a different approach to it this time round because this government said they were not going to sell.
“They said they would adopt concession so that after a period of time, the asset could come back to the government.
“However, I must say that wherever the pendulum swings, whatever government says they want to do, the most important thing for us at labour is to discuss the welfare of our members.”
He said it would be tough for workers to change the policy of government on this, stressing that the way forward was for the unions to engage government on the welfare of their various members.
Ahmadu said, “You can’t change the policy; it’s been there since 2001. We have learnt from situations in the past when unions kicked against policies but government went ahead and concluded.”
He said that workers’ interest must be paramount as it would be futile to refuse to cooperate with government while it goes ahead to conclude and take decision that were injurious to the workers.