International and local airline operators, industry service providers and others have continued to emphasise that the plan by the federal government to concession major airport facilities in the country must be done efficiently and transparently.
Federal government in the first phase of the programme plans the concession of the facilities of four major airports in the country, which include Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.
Most of the stakeholders said that such concession when done wrongly would stir controversy, which would affect the airport users.
Many of the airline operators and service providers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos said they support government airport concession programme because it will attract investment, lead to modrnisation of the airport facilities, create more opportunities for Nigerians and increase job opportunities.
This is also the position of foreign airline operators under the aegis of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria (AFARN), which called for transparent and efficient execution of the concession programme.
President of the association who is also the Director, Operations, Cargolux Airlines Nigeria, Kingsley Nwokoma in a recent press conference in Lagos said AFARN, being the association of major players in the industry, is anxious to see to the smooth concession of the major airport facilities in Nigeria.
“AFARN as you all know for many years has become one of the major voices, and safety promoters as far as aviation industry in Nigeria is concerned. Therefore, since aviation is our constituency, we owe it a duty as a professional body to advice the federal government as stakeholders where necessary, especially for the fact that we are desirous that the system survives for the common good of every Nigerian, even for the unborn generations.
“The news however is that a lot of comments from various quarters have continued to trail the four major airports penciled down for concession since the plan was hatched and made public, by the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, almost three years ago. Since that time, well-meaning Nigerians, and various stakeholders have spoken on the issue. The latest one coming from Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, whose law firm also has advised that there might be legal battle if things are not done right, in the concession process, based on what the law says,” AFARN said.
AFARN pointed out that some companies that have indicated interest in the concession of the airports have also pushed in their subsidiaries and others companies where they have interest in a way that even if they lose the concession, other companies where they have stakes would win and manage one of the airport facilities.
The foreign airlines made reference to Falana’s observation when he urged the federal government to disqualify Messrs Tav Consortium GMR Consortium owned by Airport du Paris (ADP) that holds 46 percent share in GMR and 49 percent share in Tav respectively, “having expressed desire and bided for the airports in question, against the rule that says, ‘no applicant, single or consortium can be part of more than one bid in this case’”.
AFARN said, “While we leave the legal technicalities for lawyers, AFARN wants the federal government to be very transparent in this process and those that breach the concession rules should be disqualified.”
The Minister of Aviation, Sirika while reiterating the determination of government to ensure transparency said, “Like we promised from the onset, we remain committed to ensuring the highest level of transparency and accountability till the end of the process. This is because we believe that the programme is in the best interest of Nigerians as a people and Nigeria as a nation”
The foreign airlines said, “The world is watching this process and AFARN calls upon the Minister to live up to the above promise he made on the outset of this process.”
President of the Association, Nwkokoma recalled that the liquidation of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) seemed to have been done in a hurry, leaving the workers without their severance benefits and most of them suffered poverty and death.
“That should be enough lesson for everyone involved in the ongoing concession plan to learn from. The federal government should be circumspect in making its choices, putting into considerations of many variables like safety and security issues raised by various opinion groups.
“Much as we share this opinion, our position is that things should be done right and transparently too, to avoid crippling the industry that has provided thousands of Nigerians with employments. We cannot afford to gamble this time with the aviation industry, considering the state of the economy and it’s global outlook too,” the foreign airlines said.
The federal government announced recently that it was at advanced stage of the concession process and soon the companies that expressed interest on the concession of the airport infrastructure would be announced.