Why Nigerian airports should be concessioned

Barring any last minute change, the Federal Government may have concluded plans to go ahead with its decision to concession the four international airports across the country. The four airports which will be used as a litmus test are the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, Malam Aminu Kano International Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport.

The President Muhammadu Buhari led government would not be the first to moot this idea, but each time such a decision was announced in the past, it was always met with resistance from different quarters for different reasons.

There is no doubt that the antagonists of the concession policy, particularly the aviation unions have many reasons for opposing the plan as good as it is suppose to be, some of which include lack of transparency and sincerity.

Yes, people have the right to their opinions but should the people continue to hold on to this judgment and watch the airports crumble like a pack of cards?

Obviously, the country is going through harsh economic condition presently which has almost rendered the government incapacitated in funding its major sectors like aviation.

It is no longer news that many of the airports, especially the international ones are just managing to survive in the midst of myriad of challenges ranging from long years of total neglect as witnessed in the near total infrastructural collapse.

A typical example is the Lagos airport where it has become constant to hear of power outage or spark, owing to rusted underground cables that were laid since 1979 when the airport was first built.

Even the building housing the Lagos airport does not befit the country’s number one gateway after all the Schipol airport that it was built after have transformed many times.

Despite the efforts of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to maintain these airports, it is obvious that it can no longer conveniently do this in view of the huge capital needed to carry out the functions.

Since the government that is suppose to bailout FAAN in this area is also incapacitated, the time has come to shift ground by supporting the planned concession which will take the burden off FAAN/government.

Using the successful transformation of the MMA2 private terminal owned and being managed by Bi-Courtney Services (BASL) as a yardstick, there is no doubt that if the airports are concessioned, it will bring about efficiency, great improvement, better services and generate more cash for government.

Therefore, at the level the airports are now coupled with the overwhelming burden of maintaining the airports by the FAAN, the saving option left is to support the government in achieving the goal.

However, in doing this, the government should avoid the mistake of the past by not only following due process but making the whole exercise very transparent for Nigerians on whose behalf the decision is being taken.

Obviously, people will lose their jobs while there will be changes; therefore, the issue of workers’ benefits should be given priority in other to avoid the sad experience of the workers of Nigeria Airways who 12 years after the uncivilised liquidation of the airline are yet to be finally settled.

Above all, government needs to enlighten the public on what the country stands to benefit in this as it will open the eyes of the public to the danger in leaving the airports under the government at this critical time.

The issue of security should be given serious consideration in the scheme of things in view of the security challenges confronting aviation worldwide.

No sacrifice made will be too much to not only make the airports more competitive, but in giving travellers more value for their monies and this can only be made possible through a well managed airports.