Key players in the aviation industry are divided over the list of the airport concession preferred bidders released recently by the Federal Government.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had, at a media event held on October 26, 2022 in Abuja, informed the public that the Federal Government had selected preferred and reserved bidders for three out of the four airports for concession.
The minister noted that the preferred bidder for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, was Corporation America Airports Consortium, noting that ENL Consortium was selected as the reserve bidder for Abuja airport.
TAV/NAHCO Project Planet Limited emerged as preferred bidder for Murtala Mohammed International Airports, Lagos, with Sifax/Changi Consortium selected as the reserve bidder.
He further added that Corporation America Airports Consortium also emerged as the preferred bidder for Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, noting that there was no reserve bidder for the airport.
Former military commandant of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Group Capt John Ojikutu, who spoke exclusively with our correspondent, queried why the minister did not carry the public along when the bidding process commenced.
He noted that the minister needed to let public know how many companies put in bids for Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port-Harcourt.
“I don’t know if any Nigerian company bid for it. What the minster needs to tell the public is how many companies put in bids for Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port-Harcourt. The same way it took us almost four years to know who were buying into the 99 per cent shares of the national carrier, we need to know the companies.”
Speaking further, Ojikutu said he liked the idea of the airport concession, noting that it was done globally but queried what was to be concessioned.
“What are we concessioning at the airport? Will the runway be part of the things to be concessioned or just the non-aeronautical or the aeronautical or both?
“Most of the airports in Nigeria, especially the ones to be concessioned, Lagos, Abuja and Kano are joint-user airports with the military.”
Expressing fears, he said to avoid any issues emanating from the concession, only the aeronautic part of the airports should be concessioned.
“If you concession the aeronautic part of the airport, there is every tendency that the company will be charging airports for landing. Take away the aeronautical from it and concession the non-aeronautical so as to avoid creating problems with the companies the way we have with Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited.
“If you are going to concession the airport, you have to look at the law between you and BASL, because if we haven’t solved the problems between us and BASL, it might come up again to create problems between us and the foreign companies,” he stressed.
An aviation analyst, Wole Shadare, saw nothing wrong with international companies being preferred bidders for the airport concession.
Shadare said that we should look at companies with excellent track records in airport management.
Speaking on whether the emergence of these new companies would affect the workforce of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Shadare said it could have an effect on the workforce of FAAN, noting that it would also generate a lot of employment.
Expressing worries, he said, “If you look at the number of staff we have in FAAN, most of them are like civil servants and have nothing to contribute to the development of FAAN. The number of personnel they have is even more than the number they require.
“What is going to happen is that people who they consider as redundant will have to give way for fresh ideas and innovation on how to generate more money. Since it’s the private sector that will handle it, they will know what they need and don’t need.
“If you look at the workforce of FAAN, it is over 8000, which i personally believe they do not require. The amount paid for salaries and monuments are too heavy for FAAN every year.”
He further noted that not all the airports had concessionaires and FAAN would still retain a high number of its workforce, adding that there will be job cuts but, at the same time, there would also be new engagements.
“They will have to engage a lot of people to manage and they can also bring technology to manage it,. The bottom-line is that it is going to increase the revenue as the people that are coming in will look for ways to increase the revenue.
“But one thing that should be done is to make sure that all labour-related issues for those that are going to be laid off are paid and settled so that we do not have crisis, which has been the fear of the union members.”
The Secretary-General Aviation Round Table, Olumide Ohunayo, said he would prefer an airport management to tutor FAAN on airport management to make it a profit-oriented organisation.
“I would rather want a reputable international airport management company to come and manage the entire airports under FAAN’s purview. The company will review the operational procedure and turn it to a profit-oriented organisation. They can make it a PLC that can now invest in other airports within the sub region.”