Bimbo Oyesola and Chinelo Obogo
Strong indications emerged yesterday that the Federal Government and four major unions in the nation’s aviation industry may be heading for a collision course over plans by the Federal Ministry of Aviation to concession four airports in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano and Lagos. The rising tempers in the sector followed last week’s issuance of Certificate of Compliance by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to the Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika, signaling government’s approval for the proposed concession.
But Sirika, who received the ICRC certification on June 25, to proceed with the airports concession aftermeeting all needed requirements on projects got more than he bargained when the unions moved against him yesterday to reject the concession. The agitated unions including NUATE, Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), accused the minister of pursuing his personal agenda without referencing a committee set up by the Federal Government to consider the matter, thus charging him of running a “one-man show” that enables him do whatever he wants and getting away with it without recourse to other stakeholders, including workers in the sector.
Speaking at a press conference in Lagos, the General Secretary of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) Ocheme Aba, described the issuance of the Certificate by the ICRC to the Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika, on the concession as a ruse; questioning how that was approved when no one knows what was being concessioned.
Consequently, the unions vowed to make the industry ungovernable, should the minister proceed with a process they had discredited as the self-serving ruse, through nationwide protests against it as long as the idea to concession Nigerian airports is kept alive.
According to the workers’ associations, there is need to know the transactional scope that would enable the country know whether the minister had complied with the guidelines and what scope the concession is designed for before proceeding with it. They also argued that thus far, neither the minister nor the concession committee had named a transaction adviser, and wondered how the ICRC arrived at handing over a certificate of compliance to the aviation minister
“It is highly regrettable that both the minister and the ICRC are engaging in a ruse, and are indeed taking Nigerians for a ride.
Meanwhile in furtherance of the objective, Aba said the unions have sought the support of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC) for the purpose of escalating the processes of engagement and protests. Never again, with the unfortunate mistake of selling of national assets to government officials and their cronies as happened in the electricity sector, shall we allow such to happen in Nigeria,” he said.