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Nigeria’s 22 airports to be concessioned in two phases —FG

•There will be no job loss to concession  —Minister

Few weeks after the federal government announced plans to concession the four international airports across the country for better efficiency, the minister of state for aviation, Hadi Sirika on Sunday hinted that all the 22 airports will be fully concessioned in the second phase of the project.

The international airports: the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport,  Abuja, Mallam Amonu Kano International Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport have been mentioned as those to be concessioned in the first phase of the project which will be followed by cargo designated airports.

This is just as he promised that workers will not be affected by the exercise.

Dropping the hint while meeting with the unions represented by the Air Transport Senior Staff Services of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) at the weekend, Sirika, as a way of showing commitment, gave the unions the opportunity to be part of the concession Project Delivery Committee, to enable them make inputs to improve the process.

Sirika, while describing the present state of the airports as a major blemish which needed improvement, attributed the government’s resolve to concession the airports to the over-riding national interest in ensuring the establishment and sustenance of world-class standards in infrastructural development and service delivery.

While assuring the unions that the concession is not tantamount to privatisation or outright sale, he explained that the institutions being concessioned remained the properties of the Federal    Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigeria even as he added that more jobs would be generated at the end of the day.

“You see government has no plans whatsoever to sell national assets but it was sheer misconception. But the truth is that government does not have money to invest and even if it could, with the sheer bureaucracy it could take ten years and Nigerians are tired of what is on ground and want something new,” he said.

According to the minister, a private investor like those who built airports at Doha and Dubai could provide funding for such a project and accomplish it with ease, giving this country a state-of-the-art terminal facility devoid of the problems of the current ones and after a period, as the term concession implies return said facility to the country.

“Let us tell ourselves the truth, the air conditioners are not working, toilets are not working, the same terminal we had in 1979 is still there and government does not have the money to put the infrastructure at these airports, 22 airports with 2 General Managers at Level 17 each?

“It was extremely important and the vision of the government that we should involve and engage all the stakeholders and all the people who have a stake in what we are doing especially on the concessioning of our airports, creation of a national carrier, aviation leasing company, MRO and all of the things we intend to do through private sector driven model of doing business.

“We thought it in our wisdom to begin to talk to all stakeholders to get their buy in to understand what we mean and try to define a difference between concession and privatisation,” he said.