Suspend planned concession of four airports, Reps tell Buhari

•as Aviation Minister's absence stalls probe of airport concession

Members of the House of Representatives on Monday has directed the Federal Government to suspend forthwith ongoing plans for the concession of the four airports, pending the conclusion of its intervention to avoid industrial action that may cripple the already distressed industry.

Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji who issued the directive in Abuja during an investigative hearing into the planned concession of the four airports, where members accused the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika of undermining the powers of the Parliament.

“We are all aware of the terrible impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector, which will take a while for the industry to recover, so we should strive to do whatever is necessary to help stabilize the sector.

“You may recall that in September or thereabout, this committee had interactions with the representatives of the labour unions on this subject matter. During the meeting which was a sequel to our earlier intervention over the unions’ strike action against the concession, a lot of concerns were raised by the representatives of the labour unions regarding the airports’ concession.

“Among the concerns were lack of transparency in the exercise, labour issues, the Chinese loans, the legal issues that may arise from the existing concessions and the lack of proper valuation of the present status of the affected airports, among others.

“Based on the outcome of the meeting with the labour unions, the committee invited the Minister of Aviation and the heads of agencies under him to discuss the issue of the airport’s concession. Several dates were fixed for the meeting but for one reason or the other, they failed to attend.

“The Committee had also received several letters from stakeholders both in favour and against the airports’ concession. In view of this, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation hereby requests that the concession of the four airports should be put on hold pending the resolution of the contentious issues raised by the unions and other stakeholders to avoid industrial actions that may further cripple the already distressed industry.

“We are hopeful that at the end of the day, our intervention will provide the opportunity for all the parties to reach a common ground that will move the aviation industry forward,” he noted.

In his response, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Mr Hassan Musa who pleaded for the understanding of the Committee, explained that the Minister could not attend the investigative hearing as a result of the public hearing on some bills in the Senate.

“The Minister is one of yours, he wanted to be here, unfortunately, two things clashed. I believe we are supposed to be here last Thursday that was the earlier arrangement but because of Maulud, we couldn’t meet. So the Minister felt next meeting immediately today, unaware that the senate had already programmed a public hearing on the bills which the House too agreed you are coming to have their own, starting today.

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“But today I realized that two things are clashing, I tried to get both the senate and House Committee on Aviation to plead with them. So that’s why when he came he said I should proceed to plead with you he’s not out of any slight to this high house which he was also a member.

“It’s just because there was a mix-up between his office and my office and I really apologise, please,” the Permanent Secretary urged.

In his Intervention, Hon. Yemi Alli who moved the motion for adjournment said: “the last time I was in Lagos, I rushed down here because of the importance of the matter. I don’t believe the Hon. Minister remember he was first a member of this House because the way we are being treated is not fair.

“Mr Chairman, I want to move that this meeting should adjourn. Since the PS said he’s one of us maybe we can consider him for another day. But that day will be the final time. I want to move that this Committee should suspend all action concerning the concession until the Minister comes around,” he urged.

Also speaking on the planned concession of the four airports when accosted by Parliamentary Correspondents at the sideline of the investigative hearing, Mr Musa disclosed that: “The process is slow because we want to follow necessary due process.

“Nothing will be done contrary to our laws, rules and constitution of this country. That is why it is taking the time.

“We could have done it a long time ago and the Unions are also part of the team that has been looking at the concession,” the Permanent Secretary noted.


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