FG’s airports concession plan and matters arising

The idea of airport concession mooted by the present government which was first made public about five years ago has continued to raise dust and endless questions as there are different forces working at cross purposes either in support of the Federal Government’s concession plan or those against the plan for different reasons.

Without doubt, the issue of concession or privatisation has become a global trend the different governments of countries around the world are embracing to ease off the economic burden of having to run government enterprises.

In other words, in view of the too many sectors of the economy calling for attention, any government that is sensitive will know that it is impossible to give equal financial treatment to all sectors hence, the need to relief itself of avoidable burdens.

Therefore, it is not out of place for government to partner with private entities to help ease off these overwhelming responsibilities through concessions, privatisations or others types of alliances.

Many countries around the world that have embraced this partnerships have good stories to tell as such has not only led to efficiency in the system, but also generated humongous economic benefits for such governments.

A typical case of a successful concession is the one that is existing between the British Government and the Nigerian born entrepreneur, Dr Adebayo Ogunlesi on the London Gatwick Airport, the cases of

British Airways, Charles de Gaul airport in Paris and coming home to Nigeria, the concession of the terminal two of the Murtala Muhammed local airport to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), the managers of the MMA2 terminal which are among the success stories.

Ordinarily, the government’s plan to concession the airports would have been the best move but for some knotty issues that the government has failed to untie to, at least give Nigerians element of the doubt about the sincerity and genuiness behind the plan.

For those working against the plan, the obvious fact is that there is no way many of the airports littering the country presently can survive another 10 years in view of their sorry states which at a point became overwhelming to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) as the government at the center could no longer adequately finance the organisation to upgrade the airports to expected standards.

At the same time, most of those kicking against concession plan like the unions especially have their genuine reasons for not supporting it with such reasons ranging from job safety, choice of airports set for concession, lack of transparency to the abysmal failure of government in the similar exercises conducted in the past.

The truth is that as good as the intentions of the government about the concession plan may be, in the cause of going about the plan, there are so many loopholes created by government which have contributed to the uncertainties and controversies trailing it now.

The pattern chosen by the minister of aviation and the team packaging the concession has created suspicion and anger among the different stakeholders.

In actual sense, all the dust the concession plan is raising would have been avoided if the government had followed the mode adopted by the countries Nigeria is copying in the concession/privatisation policy.

This simple logic has however become a rocket science in Nigeria in the concession plan and even the past similar exercises conducted ended up in disaster. Therefore, the ranging controversy over the concession plan should have been handled well by the government if the policy had been made more transparent.

Presently, the minister is just telling Nigerians, particularly the airport workers what suits him forgetting that everyone has a stake in the airport concession which belongs to all Nigerians.

So many things about the airport concession have been shrouded in secrecy with most information such as the modem, the identities of those bidding for the airports to be concessioned, what becomes of the security management at the airports and the labour issues kept away from the public.

Under these circumstances and coupled with the failed similar exercise carried out in the past in government enterprises like Nigeria Airways, NITEL and Daily Times, people are bound to be suspicious about the concession plan.

At this juncture, the Crucial Moment is joining other well meaning Nigerians to call on the government to carry all key players along in the areas enumerated above including the mode of bidding for the concession in the spirit of fairness and transparency.

The era of handing over the identified airports to the cronies and friends of governments as it was done in the past should be avoided this time around to prevent another failed policy.



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