From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has said there is no going back on concession of 22 airports, starting with the big four: Lagos; Abuja; Kano and Port Harcourt.
Government reiterated that it can no longer sustain the funding of the 22 airports across the country and that concession is the right hat the process will be transparently done, with the workers fully involved in the process.
Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, stated this in reaction reacting to the resistance by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) workers, under the aegis of Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) to the plans by government to concession the Lagos and Abuja Airports.
Yesterday, ATSSSAN and NUATE demontsrated against the concession in Lagos and Ilorin, Kwara State.
The minister, who fielded questions from State House Correspondents at the post-Federal Executive Council meeting, presided over by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, said the Murtala Mohammed Airport, for instance was originally built to handle 200,000 travelers per annum but, today, serves eight million passengers per annum.
Sirika stressed that government does not have the resources to upgrade the facilities to handle increased volume of travellers.
Speaking about protests against the concession, Sirika added: “You will agree with me that this is not news, they have done so in the past. We are a democratic government and we recognise that it is their right to protest and what they are protesting is whether there will be job losses and labour issues. And, we have been very consistent and we have been engaging them. This time, it will be very, very different.
“At a time the concessioning of some government assets started, we were not knowledgeable in what concession entails but, today, we have the knowledge and it will be transparently done, with active participation of workers, in the delivery and steering committees to drive this process.
“What is more, come this Friday, a portal will be put up by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), where all matters of concession will be available for anyone to see. It is an extra effort by this government to be so transparent in dealing with this type of situation. So, when it is transparently done, labour issues will be addressed within the process, you will agree with me is the best way to go…”
In separate protests in Lagos and Ilorin, on Tuesday, ATSSSAN and NUATE kicked against plans by the federal government to concession airports.
The two unions expressed dissatisfaction over non- involvement in government’s concession plan.
In Lagos, union members, drawn from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) gathered at Freedom Square, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja to make their demands.
The workers, who started their protest at about 7.30 a.m. carried placards with various inscriptions, including “FAAN workers say no to Lagos and Abuja airports concession,” “Selling our international airports is an invitation to terrorism…”
ATSSSAN National President, Mr Ahmadu Ilitrus, who spoke on behalf of both unions, said the protest was necessitated by Osinbajo’s recent statement that the Federal Government had approved concession of the airports.
“We have learnt from the experiences of other sectors such as the maritime, when the ports were undergoing concession.We have also learnt from our comrades in the power and telecommunications sectors and so on. I have gone through the document of the proposed airports concession which includes transaction advisers, the terms of reference and so on.
“But, sincerely, I have not seen anywhere in the document where labour issues have been proposed or being addressed.”