Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
The three major aviation unions, Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), have dislodged Integrated Intelligent Imaging West Africa Limited (I-Cube) and seized control of the Murtala Muhammed Airport access gate, Lagos.
Following a series of meetings between the leadership of the unions and the management of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) over the control of the access gates, the unions, on Sunday, February 2, decided to dislodge the concessionaire and take control of the revenue points on Monday, February 3, 2020.
As early as 7 am on Monday, February 3, the unions arrived at the access gates and ordered staff of I-Cube to vacate the collection points. The action nearly escalated as officers from the Air Force came to the scene and tried to send the union members away so that the staff of I-Cube will continue with toll collection.
When our correspondent Sun arrived at the access gates, the unions had taken over and were already collecting fare from vehicles and issuing receipts. The leaders of three unions who spoke to our correspondent said that they had been agitating for the management of FAAN to hand over the control of the revenue points back to the commercial department of the agency for a period of at least three months, insisting that they would generate more revenue than what the concessionaire was currently remitting to FAAN. The unions also said that the control of the access points by a concessionaire had rendered many staff of the agency redundant and had also caused a depletion of revenue generated by FAAN.
The deputy national president of ATSSAN, Sarah Rimdams said that the unions had to forcefully take over the access gates because revenue accruing to FAAN was depleting. “The contract FAAN had with the concessionaire expired on February 2019 and one year is enough for any reasonable company to ensure that either renewal or termination is tidied up. The unions just want to secure the revenue that should accrue to the government. We have not started earning the new minimum wage, and we need resources to help us do that. FAAN has more than enough staff to control the gates and they can generate more revenue than what the concessionaire is remitting. For now, we are collecting tolls manually until the concessionaire comes to clear its machines so that we can install ours,” Rimdams said.
The General-Secretary of ANAP, Abdulrazaq Saidu, said that the unions had, had a series of meetings with the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and the management of FAAN and were told that they (the unions) will take over the running of the access gates. “Before the toll gate was given out to a concessionaire, we told the management that if there was any staff that was stealing money, the person should be disciplined. But because they wanted to get money for their own people, they brought people to take over. After a while, they were not remitted on time and this kept lingering on and it began to affect the day-to-day running of FAAN. We held meetings with the Minister of Aviation and the MD of FAAN and we told them point-blank that we were going to take over this place.
“We are suspecting conspiracy between the contractor and some people within the system, either in the ministry or FAAN and this must stop. That is why we did what we have done today.”
The chairman of FAAN branch of NUATE, Idowu Adeshola, said the unions had to seize control of the access gates to ensure that payment of salaries wasn’t affected by the depleting revenue. He said: “We noticed that for over one year, I-Cube hadn’t been transparent enough in terms of revenue collection and remittance back to FAAN. The management of FAAN cannot say anything now because this place belongs to the workers and if we don’t have this revenue coming in, payment of salaries will be difficult. In order for us to forestall such from occurring, we had to be proactive and take over and we didn’t need the management for this because whatever we are going to get from here is what we are going to remit to the authority and it will also boost revenue.”
Reacting to the development, the manager of I-Cube, Leke Abajingi, denied allegations by the unions that they were behind on remittance. He told our correspondent that while it was true that their contract expired in February 2019, they hadn’t defaulted on their monthly remittance.
“This morning, the union came in and said that they wanted to take over the toll gate and the security personnel that were there said that if they want to take over, there should be due process. We didn’t get the concession through the union, we got it through FAAN and we are relating with FAAN. There is a first right of refusal clause in our agreement on how to terminate the contract. It clearly states that FAAN has to discuss with us before any action is taken but we didn’t receive any notification from FAAN and the unions just came in and took over in a way that is not proper. Recently, a company, Rosepine Integrated Services, took FAAN to court over the control of the revenue points in Abuja and Lagos and we were joined as defendants. We feel that since the case is in court, what the unions did by chasing us away is illegal.
“We have an 11-year relationship with FAAN and our monthly remittance is up to date. We started remitting N40 million monthly but the amount was later increased to N68 million monthly. As I speak, we haven’t received any notification from FAAN on whether to increase the remittance or leave it as it is. When the unions came this morning to take over, we reached out to FAAN to find out what was happening and they said they were not aware but that they will get back to us.
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, when contacted, said the unions acted unilaterally but that the management will meet with all stakeholders to resolves the issue.