FEC N10 billion approval for automation of five airports questionable

RECENTLY, the Federal Government approved the sum of N10bn for the automation of five international airports in Nigeria. The airports are those in Lagos, Enugu, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.

Ordinarily, granting such approval for the automation of the most vibrant airports across the country would have been the best decision but for the usual shoddy arrangements and confusion often created by such policies of the government.

Airport automation amongst others, streamlines flow and transfer of material across the airport, transforming the entire process of baggage carrying and early baggage handling through conveying across different locations into a seamless, hassle-free, and error-free process.

In other words, since the Nigerian airports cannot afford to be left lagging behind, embracing automation would have been one of those positive actions, however as good as the automation of the airports would have been, the contradiction in the whole idea however becomes manifest in the clashing of the timing with the move by the same government to put up the same airports for concessioning.

All the while, the government has been hammering on its resolve to concession the major airports on the premise that their present statuses fell short of expectations hence, the need to concession them to bring more value and money to the country.

The cherry picking of the highest revenue generating airports for concession has been criticised by key players who argued that rather than putting up the best airports for concession, that it would be to concession the less vibrant ones.

The aviation unions with many stakeholders have accused the government of selecting the best of the airports to concession to their cronies at the expense of other Nigerians who have equal stake in the entity called Nigeria.

Despite the stiff opposition and the obvious abracadabra surrounding the planned concession on one side, and with the insistence of the government that there is no going back on the plan, the concession plans seems to be getting messier with the latest approval of N10 billion for the automation of the said airports.

The approval for the automation fund has created more confusion about the concession policy with many questioning  the rationale behind pumping humongous N10 billion into a project that has been earmarked for concession.

According to the key players: “The issue is, these airports are already designated for concession by the ministry. If the ministry wants to concession the airports/terminals, is it necessary again for the same ministry to expend such a humongous amount of money on their automation?”

As rightly queried by key players, if government decides to pump in N10 billion to airports already put up for concessioning, what will the concessionaire then come to do?

It does not make economic sense to put such money into the selected airports at the expense of the lesser vibrant ones, unless government has concluded plans to shut down the remaining airports that are surviving on the five vibrant ones.

Why not use the N10 billion to revive the struggling airports and leave the concessionaires that will take over the lucrative airports to worry over the automation of the airports.

With the latest FEC approval, something seems wrong with the allocation of cash when it comes to aviation issues. The latest move is a misplaced priority and a waste of national fund that would have been used to raise the standards of other airports.

Approving such money for the automation of the airports that will be eventually concessioned has gone to confirm the allegations of favouritism against the government in its airport concession plan. Pumping the amount into the struggling 18 other airports will go a long way in raising the bar in domestic operations.

 

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