Chinelo Obogo, [email protected]
On October 24, 2019, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) wrote a letter to the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) threatening to resist any attempt by the management of the agency to bring in a concessionaire to control the revenue points at the Lagos and Abuja airports.
In the letter, they proposed that rather than hand over the revenue points, which include the access gates of the agency to a private company to manage, FAAN should hand them over to the commercial department for at least three months after which a decision can be reached based on performance in revenue generation.
Daily Sun spoke to the national chairman of ATSSSAN, Ahmed Danjuma, over the issue and he said the commercial department of FAAN has always generated more revenue over the years than any concessionaire and as such, the union should be given the access gates to manage.
“We were managing the toll gates but the management then gave it out to a concessionaire in 2004 and the amount they agreed to be giving to FAAN was far less than what we were collecting when we were in charge. In Lagos, what FAAN is collecting from the concessionaire is N68 million monthly. If we were the ones managing it, we would have generated more revenue.
“We raised this concern with the management and we told them that if they want to give it out, let us know how much they intend to collect monthly, then they should give us three months to see if we can generate more revenue than the amount that they want to concession. We told them that if we do not meet up with the target, then they can give it to whoever they want. The traffic level has drastically increased so the Lagos gates should be generating more than N68 million for FAAN. When we were in charge, we were collecting N100 per vehicle but now it has increased to N200 and that does not include the stickers that are now sold for N50,000 per vehicle which is used for one year and which people are rushing to get. So that instead of paying N200 every time you pass there, you can just buy one sticker for N50,000 and you won’t have to pay any other money till one year elapses. I can assure you that if we take over that place, we can make up to N100 million per month.”
After the initial action by ATSSSAN, it met several times with the management of FAAN over the issue but there was no definite outcome. However, sources within the agency told Daily Sun that despite the objections raised by the three aviation unions, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was bent on concessioning the access gates to the Abuja and Lagos airports. Shortly after, a company was penciled down to take over from the concessionaire, Integrated Intelligent Imaging West Africa Limited (I-Cube). In a letter seen by Daily Sun which was dated August 2019 and addressed to I-Cube, FAAN told the concessionaire that the control of the toll gate had been ‘given out’. Industry sources revealed to Daily Sun that the selection of a new concessionaire did not follow due process as there was no open bidding. Another company, Rosepine Integrated Services (RIS), which was interested in the contract but wasn’t selected, filed a suit against FAAN at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi and joined I-Cube as defendants. In the suit, RIS alleged, among other things, that the procedure for selecting a new concessionaire didn’t follow due process and was not transparent.
The tussle for the control of the access gates dragged on until Sunday, February 2, 2019, when information reached Daily Sun that the aviation unions were going to take over the access gates and dislodge the concessionaire.
On Monday, February 3, as early as 7am, the three major aviation unions, ATSSSAN, Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), 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 Daily Sun arrived at the access gates, the unions had taken over and were already collecting fares from vehicles and issuing receipts. The leaders of three unions who spoke to Daily Sun said that the control of the access points by a concessionaire has rendered many staff of the agency redundant and has 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 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 that what the concessionaire was remitting,” Rimdams said.
The General Secretary of ANAP, Abdulrazaq Saidu, said that the unions had series of meetings with the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the management of FAAN and were told that they (the unions) would take over the running of the access gates. “We held meetings with the Minister of Aviation and the MD of FAAN and we told them point blank that we are 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.”
The manager of I-Cube, Leke Abajingi, denied allegations by the unions that they are behind on remittance. He told Daily Sun that while it is true that their contract expired in February 2019, they haven’t defaulted on their monthly remittance.
“ 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 by FAAN and the unions just came in and took over in a way that is not proper. 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,” Abajingi said.
By the morning of February 4, security officers from the Air Force and the police were deployed to take over the access gate by the three major aviation unions. Motorists using the access gate began passing freely without paying toll fare and union members and staff of the concessionaire were seen sitting on both sides of the access gate unable to interfere as vehicles move in freely.
An aviation security expert, Captain John Ojikutu, said that by his estimation, the access gate generates about N5.5 million daily and will lose huge revenue if the faceoff between the unions and I-Cube wasn’t resolved. “The concessionaire is supposedly paying FAAN N68m monthly. But my personal research on the access gate shows that an average of 2,000 vehicles passes the gate both ways every hour. Allow 15 percent for staff and non paying privileged ones and then you are left with 1,700 vehicles every hour or 25,500 vehicles in about 15 active hours a day.
“If each vehicle pays N200, this translates to N5.5m per day or about N150m per month. The questions to ask FAAN and the unions are; what was in the contract and what is the sharing ratio on the revenue? What was the statistics of traffic that the expected revenue was based? If the union has no information on any of these, they too are going for a share in the fat calf, FAAN,” Ojikutu said.
By the afternoon of February 4, FAAN wrote a letter to I-Cube, ordering it to cease collection of toll fares and vacate the access gate with immediate effect.
In a letter dated February 4, 2020 and signed by the managing director of FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu, and copied to the Airforce commandant, MMIA, Commissioner of Police, Airport command, Director of State Security Services, all directors of FAAN and all the aviation unions, FAAN said the concessionaire should immediately vacate the access gate as the agency has resolved to temporarily take over.
The letter reads: “We refer to the above mentioned agreement which commenced on the 10th day of February, 2014 and expired on February 9, 2019. Kindly be informed that the authority has resolved to temporarily take over the management of the said Murtala International Airport Access gate with immediate effect to determine the actual revenue generated from the access gate. By this letter, you are requested to vacate the premises immediately. This will enable the authority take appropriate decision on the management of the access gate.”