THE Federal Government through the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, recently announced plans to go ahead with the concessioning of four international airports across the country.
In its determination to ensure the four airports at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt are successfully concessioned, the minister with some officials in the ministry and labour leaders, embarked on an inspection tour of two airports in Brazil and Turkey for the purpose of ensuring “transparency, inclusiveness and demonstration of sincerity in the Airport concession programme and choose the right model.”
The visit has continued to generate mixed reactions with some key players querying the reality of the project in the face of other critical needs of the sector, calling for government’s attention within the shortest period remaining for the sitting government to leave the centre stage for a new administration.
Some of the key players who spoke to Nigerian Tribune Aviation expressed doubts over the feasibility of the project wondering why the government waited for this long to continue with it.
A former military commandant at the Lagos airport and a member of the Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd) in his reaction on if the government should continue with the project when there are needs of the sector such as perimeter fencing, airfield lightings and many more, expressed reservation about the possibility.
According to Ojikutu “The train taking us towards the project sites of the national carrier; airports concessions, MRO, etc, broke down on our way but unfortunately the technical crew to rescue us from the breakdown site are more than a year away from us. That means with the 2023 elections coming, those coming to rescue us and those of us on our way must have our fill and rest before serious considerations are given to the project at hand.
“Between 2016 and now where has there been the financial capacity for us to do the much we have projected in our aviation plans? From the national carrier to airports development, reconstruction, refurbishing or concessions, MRO, Aerotropolis, Aircraft leasing, etc, all are too many irons in the fire at the same time. We barely achieved 30 per cent in the last seven years; we have recently added Aircraft Manufacturing and a second runway for Abuja Airport all falling into a time the national economy is in dire recession.
“Where would the capital for all these come from? From within where other very important social needs like roads, health, education power, etc are calling and begging for our attention? From foreign technical investors, that have no confidence in the structure of our development strategies?
Had the government faced squarely the issue of national carrier or had developed the Arik and Aero Airlines into flag carriers as continental and intercontinental airlines in partnerships with foreign technical investors and give out the federal airports for concessions within the first two/three years of this administration, we would have gone far and others like the MRO and Aircraft Leasing would have fallen in place without the types of energies that have been drained out on the stillborn national carrier and airports concessions in seven years.
“Meanwhile, the foreign airlines that could have been part of the projects have close to a billion dollars of their earnings hanging out in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without hope of getting it out before the end of the year. This administration has barely 10 months to end its work; whether the time available is sufficient to do national carrier, airports concessions, MRO and Aircraft Leasing in the midst of turbulent 2023 general election preparation is what I doubt.”
In his own contribution, one of the renowned labour leader in the sector, Comrade OlayinkaAbioye while describing the minister as always determined in whatever plans he chooses to embark on declared “As a firm believer, no matter what he (minister) is told now, he is hell bent on continuing with these projects. Airfield lightings and such other projects can be handled by FAAN upon the approval form the Ministry since the Minister usually secures approval from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in almost everything several of which we never heard anything again.’
Minister while speaking on his visit to Brazil and Turkey airports with some delegates had attributed the essence of the visit to what he called his resolve “to dispel all doubts and suspicion regarding the sincerity of the Federal Government in respect of the concession programme and to reassure the Labour force of the inherent benefits of the programme.
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