Traffic movement at the Murtala Muhammed Airport was at a standstill for some hours on Tuesday, following a peaceful protest held by aviation unions against the Federal Government’s plan to privatise four major airports across the country.
The unions, comprising Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), as early as 10.00 a.m , shut down the gates leading to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to prevent workers from having access to their offices.
The workers, through the unions, have vowed to resist any attempt by government to concession the four airports leaving the inviable ones to FAAN to manage.
The unions declared that the partial grounding of activities would continue till Thursday. Apart from the Lagos Airport, other airports affected by the partial grounding included the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, Aminu Kano Airport, Kano.
Speaking at the Freedom Square before embarking on the protest around the airport, the acting General Secretary, NUATE, Comrade Olayinka Abioye and General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Francis Akinjole, maintained that they would resist any attempt by the government to concession the four major airports.
While declaring that they were already aware that some cartel were already coming forward to ‘buy’ these viable airports, the unions argued that the unions could not mortgage the destiny of over 6,000 workers of FAAN into selfish hands of few political cartel or individual concessionaire, warning the concessionaires to steer clear of the unacceptable deal.
The unions also lamented the uncontrolled employment and improper placement of certain category of staff without recourse to the Federal Character and Public Service Rule in FAAN, describing it as a ploy to render FAAN insolvent for them to acquire.
The protest came few days after the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Serika, promised that the interest of Nigerians would not be jeopardised in the resolve to concession some of the nation’s airports.
Also, in Kano, two affiliated unions of FAAN staged a similar peaceful protest.
Senator Sirika, to concession the four major viable airports in the country, saying such move would lead to untold hardship and suffering of over 6,000 FAAN workers.
This was just as the union called on President Mohammadu Buhari not to succumb to the pressure of the Aviation Minister to concession the four viable airports, namely, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Lagos and Kano.
The chairman of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Comrade Ahmed Lawal Fagge, who spoke on Monday, on behalf of NUATE and NUP, at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, venue of the protest, said the concession of the fourviable/major airports would lead to the death of 6,000 FAAN workers.
He noted that some cartel in government were only interested in buying the viable airports and concession it to Turkish investors, adding that this move, would lead to a serious national security breach, as well as economic terrorism in which the workers union would mobilise any such attempt in the name of Airport concession.
Some of the placards, read: “Cartel in Government are interested in buying the four viable airports, our airports cannot be sold in bits, “Airport concession is economic terrorism and workers say no to airport concession.”
According to him, “the protest came as a result of the unanimous decision taken by our national headquarters of our union over the proposed concession of the four major viable airports in the country.
We have raised four major issues to the Government.
His words: “All we want is to win the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari. Every Nigerian know of his proven integrity but it is unfortunate that this time round the mantle of leadership was given to somebody, who is out to sell the properties of the Federal Government that has been generating whopping revenue for the country.’’
“Let me put the record straight, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is generating N33 billion annually, out which 25 per cent goes to the coffers of the Federal Government, 20 per cent is been paid to the new Terminal Building been constructed by a Chinese company across the nation, two per cent interest is being paid on that, while 45 per cent is the amount been used for the maintenance of the airports and the maintenance of workers and what have you.
The union added that: “Now, what we are agitating for is his plan of not carrying the union along. They just want to concession the four viable airports overnight, namely, Kano, Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja.
“The destiny of over 6,000 workers across the airports is hanging in the balance. We are therefore calling on Mr President, whom we know is not aware of this dangerous plan. That is why we are crying out, so that this information would get to him.
He the queried: “Why is it that they are so interested to concession the viable ones. Why can’t they go and build their own Airports, I think you can only concession something that is unworkable, you are looking for a way to make profit. Now that the four major Airports, Kano, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos, they are the ones not only generating revenue but sustaining the airports and the other 22 airports, the entire airports.
“Since the inception of this Government, we have been talking of a new National carrier, but ended up to concession what we have. Following the ongoing biting economic situation of the country, we are trying to diversify from oil to non-oil sector and airport is one of them.’’