The directive to immediately relocate headquarters of all aviation agencies from Lagos to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, will cost the Federal Government more of scarce resources.
Aviation stakeholders, made up of concerned workers, operators and service providers, yesterday said contrary to the cost-saving consideration cited in the directive, all officials of affected agencies would have to be paid relocation allowances that are cumulatively not cheap.
In a relative development, workers’ unions have pledged to ensure total mobilisation and payment of full allowances to staffers prior to the relocation.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had directed all aviation agencies to relocate their headquarters to Abuja within 45 days. The order, as contained in a memo from the Ministry dated May 4, 2020, stated that the marching order was in line with the Federal Government’s 2012 plan to relocate all corporate headquarters to Abuja and in line with the current economic realities.
Affected are the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) that currently have their Headquarters in Lagos.
The Guardian learnt that the fresh directive was the third in a row of attempts shift operational base of the Headquarters to Abuja from Lagos. On both occasions, some affected officials were paid relocation, only for the superintendent ministers to revert to status quo.
This time, senior officers in the level of General Manager, may be entitled to between N2 million to N4 million as allowances per person.
President of Sabre West Africa, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, said it was difficult to understand the rationale of relocating the Headquarters during COVID-19 interstate’s movement restriction and the strict timeline given when aviation businesses would gradually start recovering probably in the third quarter of 2020.
Olowo said, in any case, “the agencies’ physical presence and their heads have always being in Abuja safe for their empty seats in Lagos. The policy statement too has been there for a while. We had thought economic judgment had prevailed on their staying behind in Lagos all this while.
“The Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) being the highest revenue earner for FAAN and NAMA will suffer some administrative slacks with the seat of direct control being away from Lagos. It’s like locating the bakery away from the production line and supply of flour.
“Direct and on-the-spot decision making by numero uno becomes delegated resulting to unnecessary gaps with timelines. In addition, major airlines’ headquartered in Lagos will have decisions and approvals slowed down with increased cost of many visits to Abuja,” Olowo said.
A top official of the aviation workers’ union also described the move as a “faulty management and administrative policy.”He said: “It is political and you can all read in-between the lines. If the intention is to save money, the FG knows the loopholes and wastages that abound all over the place. Why is aviation more visible to these Abuja people? Whose houses are being pegged for rentage to staffers of NAMA and other agencies? What has the FG done with the 25 per cent gross earnings from the agencies? What is happening to the outstanding balance in our Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) fund account? What is it likely to be expended upon? These are the questions that the minister should answer, if he is sincere,” the worker said.
The Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), however, said the relocation might not change anything in terms of progress until each airport is treated according to its revenue contributions.
Ojikutu said the headquarters don’t make money, rather they spend it. “Let the management of the operations that makes the money have self-actualisation in the management of the infrastructure and resources.
“It is bad management if MMA that makes close to N5 billion monthly cannot spend one per cent of its earnings on the maintenance of the infrastructure of its operations. In other climes, 10 per cent is allowed. Let this movement be the beginning of devolution of power in the airports management,” Ojikutu said.
The President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Illitrus Ahmadu, however, said ATSSSAN was not against the relocation order but the staff welfare should not be taken for granted.
Ahmadu said: “We will not accept a situation where you ask anyone to go without first paying the relocation allowance. And my advice is that you cannot relocate people out of Lagos to Abuja and cripple activities in Lagos.
“You should provide enough capital resources to continue to drive operations in Lagos while you move few people to Abuja.”“I don’t think the relocation will affected the running of the agencies, but we expect the CEOs to empower the offices at the regions or various formations so that those who are there will be able to perform their duties effectively. We want to see some level of authorities to the people at the regions and formations.”