By Chinelo Obogo [email protected] 07064781119
Controversies have continued to trail the recent deal between Nigeria Air and Ethiopian Air and the planned demolition of offices of some of the aviation agencies. The stakeholder agitations also included the concession of four international airports.
In all these projects, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has been criticised by many industry stakeholders for being too high handed and failing to run an inclusive administration.
In one of such confrontations, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) had headed to court with the ministry over the Nigeria Air project, even as aviation unions battle the minister over unresolved disputes on concession of four international airports as well as his move to demolish offices of some aviation agencies.
But during a recent event in Lagos, Sirika who spoke to aviation reporters denied being high-handed but insisted he has always tried to carry everyone along in the execution of his aviation roadmap.
Early in 2016 when we rolled out our roadmap, the unions at that time formed majority part of the stakeholders involved in the projects. The roadmap included concession, the national carrier, an aviation university, a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, a leasing company and we are well interrogated at that event to unveil the roadmap.
Since then, we have had almost quarterly stakeholder conferences, some in Lagos, and some in Abuja and at every single time, the unions had been there. I met with them over 20 times as a minister and because we were doing a Public Private Partnership (PPP) program, which is guided by ICRC, the constitutional agency saddled with the responsibility of doing concessions and PPP programs, we obeyed them.
There are two principles driving committees: The Project Delivery Team (PDT), which is the engine house to which all of the activity of concession, national carrier, and the rest of the PPP is being grouped. Then, finally, the Project Steering Committee (PSC), which is approving unit of the PDT. No law in Nigeria says that unions should form part of the PDT. It is me, Hadi Sirika, for fairness, representation and participatory leadership that said that we should include members of the union in that committee so that they are aware of what we are doing from day one, from the appointment of the transactional adviser, to the formation of the outline business case and all those route financial closure. We did this that nobody would say that they were not carried along. I have met some imminent Nigerians, people that I hold in high esteem and I still do respect them. They were even ministers before, in fact they were ministers when I was in school. I have read some of them saying that they have not been carried along as stakeholders but it is not true. It’s absolutely incorrect. It is very unfair on us.
All of our activities are uploaded on our website so nobody should claim that he has not been carried along and there is also the Freedom of Information Act. Nobody had ever asked for a document from the Ministry of Aviation and I denied him. I have always obliged, if you ask me the name of my mother I will give you. But nobody that ever written to ask for one document or another and he has not been given. So if you say you have not been included, I think it’s unfair on us. I think we should have the credit of transparency today.
You can ask every contractor and all of the airline owners if any one of them has been to my office to ask for his document to be pushed. So every stakeholder in this country has been carried through our own advertisement, through the website, through the stakeholder conferences, through personal visitation by me.
On the issue of the national carrier, the airline owners accused me and said they are not carried along. But if you are there in the National Assembly, both House of Representative and Senate, they chickened out because I called their names and told them where I met them individually. I called out Max Air, Azman, Air Peace, Ibom Air and told them where I met them to plead that they should come and partner in Nigeria Air and own it. It’s meant for you the private sector. Keep your Air Peace, keep your Max Air, and come and invest in this one. And I went to them individually and one of them said, that was informal. I said, well, I went to you at least, I met you in your own place. I discussed with you and I invited you. But if it is informal, I have put it out in the newspapers and even on television. I have also put it on the website. So how more formal can that be? It has also always been an item in all the stakeholder conferences where I always end by saying, you the stakeholders are invited to come and partner in this project and programs. They are fully private sector, so nobody should say he has not been invited.
Some people went to court over the national carrier but I cannot see any rational court that will say I am stopping somebody from establishing a company. Because Nigeria Air is a limited liability company, known to Nigeria Laws in the Corporate Affairs Commission.
So if anybody wants to come and invest in that company of Nigeria, there is no law in Nigeria that stops him from doing so. If there are foreigners coming to invest, nobody is stopping them from investing. Shell, Unilever, May and Baker, Julius Berger are companies known to Nigerian Law and people are coming to invest. What is the big deal? This is what we want. We want Foreign Direct Investment. So, if it is 350 million dollars for the airline and somebody is bringing 200 million dollars into Nigeria, why not? We want more of them.
Planned demolition of FAAN, NCAA and NAMA offices
I wish that it would happen tomorrow morning. I wish that happen tomorrow morning. Is this chaos what you want as an airport? Is it what you want for an aerotropolis which is part of the roadmap? Don’t you want a rail link between the old domestic terminal and the new international terminal? Don’t you want that? Don’t you want pattern structures where there are cinemas, spas, shopping malls, banks, airline offices and a befitting headquarters for Lagos? The chaos that you have here is what you call an airport? Do you want to continue to live like this? Do you want to keep going to Dubai and come back and say wow these people are done wonderful? Do you want keep going to Ghana and using your phone and say common Ghana, see Ghana? Is that what you want? So given the chance, I will demolish all the headquarters. In fact, I told somebody that I am going to demolish from where Arik used to be, Nigeria Airways, all the way to police to Aero Contractors to Bristol and something that is befitting of Lagos.
Is the headquarters of FAAN developed the way it is? By the grace of God, we will carry the stakeholders along throughout this process because it is their right to know. We will not do it under the table. I have not been known for that neither has anything that I have supervised, been known for that. If we want to demolish a building to make something better, nobody should stop us from doing so, because we know it is for the good of our industry.
The last audit they did was a huge improvement upon what we have done before. It was under our watch, at least we took security to about 96.7, almost near perfect. There are only very few countries in the world, year in year, and I think three or four more that are better than us in the entire world when we came in.
In fact, I know for now I have earned 20 more marks than before. You know why? Because one, the primary legislation, which has been absent, which tried to put regulators and service providers together, and all of that has now been just signed by President. That has to be 10 out of a hundred marks and I score it. So since the score was 67 before even when you maintain the 67, you add that 10 we are now at 77 and by any standard that is an A.