By Chinelo Obogo
Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), has urged the Federal Government to give priority to Nigerian companies like it to bid for any of the international airports which the Ministry of Aviation plans to concession before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Speaking during a press briefing at the regional departure lounge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) Lagos on Friday, the chairman of BASL, Dr. Wale Babalakin, operators of the terminal, said local companies that have shown competence in handling an airport and creating jobs for Nigeians, ought to be given priority over foreign companies.
The Ministry of Aviation recently opened the bidding for the concession of the international terminals of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Port Harcourt Aiport,Omagwa, Mallam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano and Nnamdi Azikwe Airport, Abuja.
Babalakin said that in other countries, the government would check the past and present performance of companies that have done it well and offer them a right of first refusal before opening the process, insisting that that BASL has within its limited resources operated MMA2 for 14 years and have run the terminal well despite challenges it has come to face from government.
He asked for the success rate of the foreign bidders that have shown interest asking how far and well it has gone with other foreign concerns who have invested in the country and relocated one way or another, according to him, only Nigerian bidders who have capacity should be interested.
On why he is still interested in bidding for a concession despite the long drawn battle with the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) over the concession of MM2 which has lasted over a decade, Babalakin said: “BASL is interested in anything that is intelligent infrastructure development. I have had people say are you a business man? I am not a business man, I am a lawyer and an infrastructure developer, I don’t trade, I don’t import and export, what is my interest? Infrastructure development and that’s where you find me.
“So we are interested but we are more interested in the process leading to the emergence and we believe that we are entitled to be first option. In any very organized country, we would be given the first option.”
Also speaking on the refusal of FAAN to hand over the General Aviation Terminal to BASL, he said the government is subjecting airlines to incalculable loss and passengers to untold hardships by making them transit from MMA2 to the international to connect flights to the West Coast and urged it to implement the approval agreement granted it by previous administration to commence regional operations from its terminal. He said that as big as the terminal is, only about one -third of the place has been put into operation.
“Before we talk about our own loss, what are the airlines losing? The airlines are bleeding because of the logistics nightmare of having to move from one terminal to the other just because we want to carry the same traffic. We are losing a lot of money because we invested a lot of money in creating regional wing on our platform but the exact amount we are losing I may not know off hand,” he said.